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The Publishers take pleasure in presenting, in 
this Life of Abraham Lincoln, two exceptionally 
fine portraits of the great President. That which 
forms the frontispiece of the first volume is a pho- 
togravure reproduction of a photograph taken in 
1858,^ the year of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, 
and is regarded by competent judges as one of the 
best and most characteristic portraits of Lincoln 
ever made. An etching by M. Rajon, the late 
eminent French artist, and a masterly engraving 
on wood by Mr. Gustav Kruell, were both based 
upon it. The portrait prefixed to the second vol- 
ume is reproduced, also by the photogravure pro- 
cess, from a photograph taken in 1864, at the 
time^ of General Grant's visit to Washington to 
receive from Mr. Lincoln's hands his commission 
as Lieutenant-General of all the armies of the 
republic. The fact that the original negatives 
were not retouched gives these portraits especial 
value, and is an added assurance of their fidelity. 




The Raw Matekiaij 1 

The Stakt in Life 35 

Love; A Duel; Law, and Congkess . ... 62 

NoBTH AND South 82 

The Lincoln-Douolas Joint Debate .... Ill 

Election 161 

Interregnum 180 

The Beginning of War 229 

A Real President, and not a Real Battle . . 273 


The FmsT Act of the McClellan Drama . . . 303 

MnjTABT Matters outside of Vibginia o . . 34G 

Foreign Affairs .... 





Abraham Lincoln knew little concerning his 
progenitors, and rested well content with the scan- 
tiness of his knowledge. The character and con- 
dition of his father, of whom alone upon that side 
of the house he had personal cognizance, did not 
encourage him to pry into the obscurity behind 
that luckless rover. He was sensitive on the sub- 
ject; and when he was applied to for information, 
a brief paragraph conveyed all that he knew or de- 
sired to know. Without doubt he would have 
been best pleased to have the world take him solely 
for himself, with no inquiry as to whence he came, 
— as if he had dropped upon the planet like a 
meteorite ; as, indeed, many did piously hold that 
he came a direct gift from heaven. The fullest 
statement which he ever made was given in Decem- 
ber, 1859, to Mr. Fell, who had interrogated him 
with an eye "to the possibilities of his being an 
available candidate for the presidency in 1860 : " 
"My parents were both born in Virginia, of un- 


distinguished families, — second families, perhaps 
I should say. My mother . . . was of a family 
of the name of Hanks, some of whom now remain 
in Adams, some others in Macon, counties, Illi- 
nois. My paternal grandfather, Abraham Lin- 
coln, emigrated from Rockingham County, Vir- 
ginia, to Kentucky, about 1781 or 1782. . . . 
His ancestors, who were Quakers, went to Virginia 
from Berks County, Pennsylvania. An effort to 
identify them with the New England family of the 
same name ended in nothing more definite than a 
similarity of Christian names in both families, 
such as Enoch, Levi, Mordecai, Solomon, Abra- 
ham, and the like." 

This effort to connect the president with the 
Lincolns of Massachusetts was afterward carried 
forward by others, who felt an interest greater 
than his own in establishing the fact. Yet if he 
had expected the quest to result satisfactorily, he 
would probably have been less indifferent about it; 
for it is obvious that, in common with all Ameri- 
cans of the old native stock, he had a strenuous 
desire to come of "respectable people;" and his 
very reluctance to have his apparently low extrac- 
tion investigated is evidence that he would have 
been glad to learn that he belonged to an ancient 
and historical family of the old Puritan Common- 
wealth, settlers not far from Plymouth Eock, and 
immigrants not long after the arrival of the May- 
flower. This descent has at last been traced by 
the patient genealogist. 


So early as 1848 the first useful step was taken 
by Hon. Solomon Lincoln of Hingham, Massa- 
ctiusetts, who was struck by a speech delivered by 
Abraham Lincoln in the national House of Repre- 
sentatives, and wrote to ask facts as to his parent- 
age. The response ^ stated substantially what was 
afterward sent to Mr. Fell, above quoted. Mr. 
Solomon Lincoln, however, pursued the search 
further, and printed the results.^ Later, Mr. 
Samuel Shackford of Chicago, Illinois, himself a 
descendant from the same original stock, pushed 
the investigation more persistently.^ The chain, 
as put together by these two gentlemen, is as fol- 
lows: Hingham, Massachusetts, was settled in 
1635. In 1636 house-lots were set off to Thomas 
Lincoln, the miller, Thomas Lincoln, the weaver, 
and Thomas Lincoln, the cooper. In 1638 other 
lots were set off to Thomas Lincoln, the husband- 
man, and to Stephen, his brother. In 1637 Sam- 
uel Lincoln, aged eighteen, came from England to 
Salem, Massachusetts, and three years later went 
to Hingham ; he also was a weaver, and a brother 
of Thomas, the weaver. In 1644 there was a 
Daniel Lincoln in the place. All these Lincolns 
are believed to have come from the County of Nor- 
folk in England,* though what kinship existed be- 

1 Two letters, now in the possession of Mr. Francis H. Lincoln, 
of Boston, Mass. 

2 New England Hist, and Gen. Register, Oct., 1865. 

3 Ibid., April, 1887, vol. xli. p. 153. 

* See articles in N. E. H. and G. Reg. above cited. Mr. Lin- 
coln's article states that in Norwich, Norfolk County, Eng., there 


tween them is not known. It is from Samuel that 
the president appears to have been descended. 
Samuel's fourth son, Mordecai, a blacksmith, 
married a daughter of Abraham Jones, of Hull ; ^ 
about 1704 he moved to the neighboring town of 
Scituate, and there set up a furnace for smelting 
iron ore. This couple had six children, of whom 
two were named respectively Mordecai and Abra- 
ham; and these two are believed to have gone to 
Monmouth County, New Jersey. There Mordecai 
seems to have continued in the iron business, and 
later to have made another move to Chester 
County, Pennsylvania, still continuing in the same 
business, until, in 1725, he sold out all his "Mynes 
& Minerals, Forges, etc."^ Then, migrating 
again, he settled in Amity, Philadelphia County, 
Pennsylvania, where, at last, death caught up with 
him. By his wiU, February 22, 1735-36, he be- 
queathed his land in New Jersey to John, his eld- 
est son ; and gave other property to his sons Mor- 
decai and Thomas. He beKed the old motto, for 
in spite of more than three removes he left a fair 
estate, and in the probate proceedings he is de- 
scribed as "gentleman."^ In 1748 John sold all 

is a " curious chased copper box with the inscription ' Abraham 
Lincoln, Norwich, 1731 ; ' " also in St. Andrew's church in the 
same place a mural tablet : " In memory of Abraham Lincoln, of 
this parish, who died July 13, 1798, aged 79 years." Similarities 
of name are also noted, 

^ A town adjoining Hingham, Mass. 

2 His brother Abraham also resided in Chester County, and died 
there, April, 1745. 

3 N. and H., i. 3. 


he had in New Jersey, and in 1758 moved into 
Virginia, settling in that part of Augusta County 
which was afterward set off as Kockingham 
County. Though his will has not been found, 
there is "ample proof," says Mr. Shackford, that 
he had five sons named Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, 
Thomas and John. Of these, Abraham went to 
North Carolina, there married Mary Shijjley, and 
by her had sons Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas, 
who was born in 1778. In 1780 or 1782, as it is 
variously stated, this family moved to Kentucky. 
There, one day in 1784, the father, at his labor in 
the field, was shot by lurking Indians. His oldest 
son, working hard by, ran to the house for a gun ; 
returning toward the spot where lay his father's 
body, he saw an Indian in the act of seizing his 
brother, the little boy named Thomas. He fired, 
with happy aim ; the Indian fell dead, and Thomas 
escaped to the house. This Thomas it was who 
afterward became the father of Abraham Lincoln. ^ 
Of the other sons of Mordecai (great-uncles of the 
President), Thomas also went to Kentucky, Isaac 
went to Tennessee, while Jacob and John stayed 
in Virginia, and begat progeny who became in 
later time ferocious rebels, and of whom one wrote 
a very comical blustering letter to his relative the 
President; 2 and probably another, bearing oddly 

^ A different pedigree, published in the Lancaster Intelligencer^ 
Sept. 24, 1879, by David J. Lincoln, of Birdsboro, Berks County, 
Penn., is refuted by George Lincoln, of Hingham, Mass., in the 
Hingham Journal, Oct. 10, 1879. 

2 N. and H., i. 4 note. 


enough the name of Abraham, was a noted fighter.^ 
It is curious to observe of what migratory stock we 
have here the sketch. Mr. Shackford calls atten- 
tion to the fact that through six successive genera- 
tions all save one were "pioneers in the settlement 
of new countries," thus: 1. Samuel came from 
England to Hingham, Massachusetts. 2. Mor- 
decai lived and died at Scituate, close by the place 
of his birth. 3. Mordecai moved, and settled in 
Pennsylvania, in the neighborhood which after- 
ward became Berks County, while it was still wil- 
derness. 4. John moved into the wilds of Vir- 
ginia. 5. Abraham went to the backwoods of 
Kentucky, shortly after Boone's settlement. 6. 
Thomas moved first into the sparsely settled parts 
of Indiana, and thence went onward to a similar 
region in Illinois. 

Thus in time was corroborated what Abraham 
Lincoln wrote in 1848 in one of the above-men- 
tioned letters to Hon. Solomon Lincoln: "We 
have a vague tradition that my great-grandfather 
went from Pennsylvania to Virginia, and that he 
was a Quaker." It is of little consequence that 
this "vague tradition" was stoutly contradicted by 
the President's father, the ignorant Thomas, who 
indignantly denied that either a Puritan or a 
Quaker could be found in the line of his forbears, 
and who certainly seemed to set heredity at de- 
fiance if such were the case. But while thus repu- 
diating others, Thomas himself was in some danger 

1 N. and H., i. 4 note. 


of being repudiated ; for so pained have some per- 
sons been by the necessity of recognizing Thomas 
Lincoln as the father of the President, that they 
have welcomed, as a happy escape from this so 
miserable paternity, a bit of gratuitous and unsup- 
ported gossip, published, though perhaps with 
more of malice than of faith, by Mr. Herndon, to 
the effect that Abraham Lincoln was the illegiti- 
mate son of some person unknown, presumably 
some tolerably well-to-do Kentuckian, who induced 
Thomas to assume the role of parent. 

Upon the mother's side the ancestral showing is 
meagre, and fortunately so, since the case seems 
to be a bad one beyond reasonable hope. Her 
name was Nancy Hanks. She was born in Vir- 
ginia, and was the illegitimate child of one Lucy 
Hanks. ^ Nor was she the only instance of illegi- 
timacy 2 in a family which, by all accounts, seems 
to have been very low in the social scale. Mr. 
Herndon calls them by the dread name of "poor 
whites," and gives an unappetizing sketch of 
them.^ Throughout his pages and those of La- 
mon there is abundant and disagreeable evidence 
to show the correctness of his estimate. Nancy 
Hanks herself, who certainly was not to blame for 
her parentage, and perhaps may have improved 
matters by an infusion of better blood from her 

1 Herndon, 3. 

2 The unpleasant Dennis Hanks was an illegitimate son of an 
" aunt of the President's mother." Herndon, 13 ; and see Lamon, 

3 Herndon, 14, 


unknown father, is described by some as a very- 
rare flower to have bloomed amid the bed of ugly 
weeds which surrounded her. These friendly 
writers make her a gentle, lovely. Christian crea- 
ture, too delicate long to survive the roughness 
of frontier life and the fellowship of the shift- 
less rover to whom she was imfittingly wedded.^ 
Whatever she may have been, her picture is ex- 
ceeding dim and has been made upon scant and 
not imquestionable evidence. Mr. Lincoln seems 
not often to have referred to her; but when he did 
so it was with expressions of affection for her char- 
acter and respect for her mental qualities, provided 
at least that it was really of her, and not of his 
step-mother that he was speaking, — a matter not 
clear from doubt. ^ 

On June 10, 1806, Thomas Lincoln gave bond 
in the "just and full sum of fifty pounds" to 
marry Nancy Hanks, and two days later, June 
12, he did so, in Washington County, Kentucky.^ 
She was then twenty-three years old. February 
12, 1807, their daughter Sarah was born, who 
was married and died leaving no issue. February 
12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born; no other 
children came save a boy who lived only a few 

The domestic surroundings amid which the babe 

1 Holland, 23; Lamon, 11; N. and H., i. 24; Herndon, 13, 28; 
Raymond, 20 ; but Raymond is no authority as to Lincoln's 
youth ; and Holland is little more valuable for the same period. 

^ Lamon, 32. But see Herndon, 13. 

^ N. and H., i. 23 ; Herndon, 5 ; but see Lamon, 10. 


came into life were wretched in the extreme. All 
the trustworthy evidence depicts a condition of 
what civilized people call misery. It is just as 
well to acknowledge a fact which cannot now be 
obscured by any amount of euphemism. Yet very 
many of Lincoln's biographers have been greatly 
concerned to color this truth, which he himself, 
with his honest nature, was never willing to mis- 
represent, however much he resisted efforts to give 
it a general publicity. He met curious inquiry 
with reticence, but with no attempt to mislead. 
Some of his biographers, however, while shunning 
direct false statements, have used alleviating ad- 
jectives with literary skill, and have drawn fanci- 
ful pictures of a pious frugal household, of a gal- 
lant frontiersman endowed with a long catalogue 
of noble qualities, and of a mother like a Madonna 
in the wilderness.^ Yet all the evidence that there 
is goes to show that this romantic coloring is purely 
illusive. Kough, coarse, low, ignorant, and pov- 
erty-stricken surroundings were about the child ; 
and though we may gladly avail ourselves of the 
possibility of believing his mother to have been 
superior to all the rest of it, yet she could by no 
means leaven the mass. The father ^ was by call- 

^ For instance, see the pages of the first chapter of the Life by 
Arnold, a book which becomes excellent after the author has got 
free from the fancied necessities of creating an appropriate back- 
ground for the origin and childhood of the hero. So, more briefly, 
Raymond, who gives no authority to support the faith which is in 

2 For description of him, see Lamon, 8, 9 ; Herndon, 11. 


ing a carpenter, but not good at his trade, a shift- 
less migratory squatter by invincible tendency, 
and a very ignorant man, for a long while able 
only to form the letters which made his signature, 
though later he extended his accomplishments a 
little. He rested not much above the very bottom 
of existence in the pioneer settlements, apparently 
without capacity or desire to do better. The fam- 
ily was imbued with the peculiar, intense, but un- 
enlightened form of Christianity, mingled with 
curious superstition, prevalent in the backwoods, 
and begotten by the influence of the vast wilder- 
ness upon illiterate men of a rude native force. 
It interests scholars to trace the evolutions of re- 
ligious faiths, but it might be not less suggestive 
to study the retrogression of religion into super- 
stition. Thomas was as restless in matters of 
creed as of residence, and made various changes 
in both during his life. These were, however, 
changes without improvement, and, so far as he 
was concerned, his son Abraham might have 
grown up to be what he himseH was contented to 

It was in the second year after his marriage 
that Thomas Lincoln made his first removal. 
Four years later he made another. Two or three 
years afterwards, in the autumn of 1816, he aban- 
doned Kentucky and went into Indiana. Some 
writers have given to this migration the interesting 
character of a flight from a slave-cursed society to 
a land of freedom, but whatever poetic fitness there 


might be in such a motive the suggestion is en- 
tirely gratuitous and without the slightest foun- 
dation.^ In making this move, Thomas's outfit 
consisted of a trifling parcel of tools and cooking 
utensils, with ever so little bedding, and four hun- 
dred gallons of whiskey. At his new quarters he 
built a "half -faced camp" fourteen feet square, 
that is to say, a covered shed of three sides, the 
fourth side being left open to the weather. In 
this, less snug than the winter's cave of a bear, 
the family dwelt for a year, and then were trans- 
lated to the luxury of a "cabin," four -walled in- 
deed, but which for a long while had neither 
floor, door, nor window. Amid this hardship and 
wretchedness Nancy Lincoln passed away, Octo- 
ber 5, 1818, of that dread and mysterious dis- 
ease, the scourge of those pioneer communities, 
known as the "milk-sickness." ^ In a rough coffin, 
fashioned by her husband "out of green limaber 
cut with a whip-saw," she was laid away in the 
forest clearing, and a few months afterward an 
initerant preacher performed some funeral rites 
over the poor woman's humble grave. 

For a year Thomas Lincoln was a widower. 
Then he went back to Kentucky, and found there 
Mrs. Sally Johnston, a widow, whom, when she 
was the maiden Sarah Bush, he had loved and 
courted, and by whom he had been refused. He 
now asked again, and with better success. The 

1 Hemdon, 19 ; Lamon, 16 ; Holland, 25. 

2 Herndon, 25-28 ; Lamon, 26-28. 


marriage was a little inroad of good luck into 
his career; for tlie new wife was thrifty and in- 
dustrious, with the ambition and the capacity to 
improve the squalid condition of her husband's 
household. She had, too, worldly possessions of 
bedding and furniture, enough to fill a four-horse 
wagon. She made her husband put a floor, a 
door, and windows to his cabin. From the day of 
her advent a new spirit made itself felt amid the 
belongings of the inefficient Thomas. Her imme- 
diate effort was to make her new husband's chil- 
dren "look a little more human," and the youthful 
Abraham began to get crude notions of the simpler 
comforts and decencies of life. All agree that she 
was a step-mother to whose credit it is to be said 
that she manifested an intelligent kindness towards 

The opportunities for education were scant 
enough in that day and place. In his childhood 
in Kentucky Abraham got a few weeks with one 
teacher, and then a few weeks with another. 
Later, in Indiana, he studied a few months, in a 
scattered way. Probably he had instruction at 
home, for the sum of all the schooling which he 
had in his whole life was hardly one year ; ^ a sin- 
gular start upon the road to the presidency of the 
United States! The books which he saw were 
few, but a little later he laid hands upon them all 
and read and re-read them till he must have ab- 
sorbed all their strong juice into his own nature. 

1 Hemdon, 34-37, 41 ; Lamon, 34-36 ; Holland, 28. 


Nicolay and Hay give the list: The Bible; 
"^sop's Fables;" "Kobinson Crusoe;" "The 
Pilgrim's Progress;" a history of the United 
States; Weems's "Washington." He was doubt- 
less much older when he devoured the Revised 
Statutes of Indiana in the office of the town con- 
stable. Dr. Holland adds Lives of Henry Clay, 
and of Franklin (probably the famous autobiogra- 
phy), and Ramsay's "Washington;" and Arnold 
names Shakespeare and Burns. It was a small 
library, but nourishing. He used to write and to 
do sums in arithmetic on the wooden shovel by the 
fireside, and to shave off the surface in order to 
renew the labor. 

As he passed from boyhood to youth his mental 
development took its characteristics from the pop- 
ular demand of the neighborhood. He scribbled 
verses and satirical prose, wherein the coarse wit 
was adapted to the taste of the comrades whom it 
was designed to please; and it must be admitted 
that, after giving due weight to all ameliorating 
considerations, it is impossible to avoid disappoint- 
ment at the grossness of the jesting. No thought, 
no word raised it above the low level of the audi- 
ence made up of the laborers on the farms and the 
loungers in the groceries. The biographer who 
has made public "The First Chronicles of Reu- 
ben " deserves to be held in detestation.^ 

A more satisfactory form of intellectual efferves- 

1 Mr. Herndon did this ill deed ; 50-54. Lamon prefers to say 
that most of this literature is " too indecent for publication," 63. 


cence consisted in writing articles on the American 
Government, Temperance, etc., and in speech- 
making to any who were near at the moment of 
inspiration. There is abundant evidence, also, 
that already Lincoln was regarded as a witty fel- 
low, a rare mimic, and teller of jokes and stories; 
and therefore was the champion of the fields and 
the favorite of all the primitive social gatherings. 
This sort of life and popularity had its perils ; for 
in that day and region men seldom met without 
drinking together; but all authorities are agreed 
that Lincoln, while the greatest talker, was the 
smallest drinker. 

The stories told of his physical strength rival 
those which decorate the memory of Hercules. 
Others, which show his kindly and humane nature, 
are more valuable. Any or all of these may or 
may not be true, and though they are not so poeti- 
cal or marvelous as the myths which lend an an- 
tique charm to the heroes of classic and romantic 
lore, yet they compare fairly well with those which 
Weems has twined about the figure of the youthful 
Washington. There is a tale of the rescue of a 
pig from a quagmire, and another of the saving of 
a drunken man from freezing. There are many 
stories of fights ; others of the lifting of enormous 
weights ; and even some of the doing of great feats 
of labor in a day, though for such tasks Lincoln 
had no love. These are not worth recounting ; there 
is store of such in every village about the popular 
local hero; and though historians by such folk-lore 


may throw a glamour about Lincoln's daily life, 
he himself, at the time, could hardly have seen 
much that was romantic or poetical in the routine 
of ill-paid labor and hard living. Until he came 
of age his "time" belonged to his father, who let 
him out to the neighbors for any job that offered, 
making him a man-of -all-work, without-doors and 
within. In 1825 he was thus earning six dollars 
a month, presumably besides board and lodging. 
Sometimes he slaughtered hogs, at thirty-one cents 
a day; and in this "rough work" he was esteemed 
especially efficient. Such was the making of a 
President in the United States in this nineteenth 
century ! 

Thomas Lincoln, like most men of his stamp, 
had the cheerful habit of laying the results of his 
own worthlessness to the charge of the conditions 
about him, which, naturally, he constantly sought 
to change, since it seemed that no change could 
bring him to a lower level than he had already 
found. As Abraham approached his "freedom- 
day," his luckless parent conceived the notion that 
he might do better in Illinois than he had done in 
Indiana. So he shuffled off the farm, for which 
he had never paid, and about the middle of Feb- 
ruary the family caravan, with their scanty house- 
hold wares packed in an ox team, began a march 
which lasted fourteen days and entailed no small 
measure of hardship. They finally stopped at a 
bluff on the north bank of the north fork of the 
Sangamon, a stream which empties into the Ohio. 


Here Thomas Lincoln renewed the familiar process 
of "starting in life," and with an axe, a saw and 
a knife built a rough cabin of hewed logs, with a 
smoke-house and "stable." Abraham, aided by- 
John Hanks, cleared ten or fifteen acres of land, 
split the rails and fenced it, planted it with corn, 
and made it over to Thomas as a sort of bequest at 
the close of his term of legal infancy. His subse- 
quent relationship with his parents, especially with 
his father, seems to have been slight, involving an 
occasional gift of money, a very rare visit, and 
finally a commonplace letter of Christian comfort 
when the old man was on his death -bed. ^ 

At first Abraham's coming of age made no es- 
pecial change in his condition; he continued to 
find such jobs as he could, as an example of which 
is mentioned his bargain with Mrs. Nancy Miller 
"to split four hundred rails for every yard of 
brown jeans dyed with white walnut bark that 
would be necessary to make him a pair of trou- 
sers." After many months there arrived in the 
neighborhood one Denton Offut, one of those 
scheming, talkative, evanescent busy-bodies who 
skim vaguely over new territories. This adven- 
turer had a cargo of hogs, pork, and corn, which 
he wanted to send to New Orleans, and the en- 
gagement fell to Lincoln and two comrades at the 
wage of fifty cents per day and a bonus of 860 for 
the three. It has been said that this and a pre- 
ceding trip down the Mississippi first gave Lincoln 

^ Thomas Lincoln died Jan. 17, 1851. 


a glimpse of slavery in concrete form, and that the 
spectacle of negroes "in chains, whipped and 
scourged," and of a slave auction, implanted in his 
mind an "unconquerable hate" towards the insti- 
tution, so that he exclaimed: "If ever I get a 
chance to hit that thing, I 'U hit it hard." So 
the loquacious myth-maker John Hanks asserts ; ^ 
but Lincoln himself refers his first vivid impres- 
sion to a later trip, made in 1841, when there 
were "on board ten or a dozen slaves shackled to- 
gether with irons." Of this subsequent incident 
he wrote, fourteen years later, to his friend, 
Joshua Speed: "That sight was a continual tor- 
ment to me; and I see something like it every 
time I touch the Ohio or any other slave border. 
It is not fair for you to assume that I have no in- 
terest in a thing which has, and continually exer- 
cises, the power of making me miserable."^ 

Of more immediate consequence was the notion 
which the rattle-brained Offut conceived of Lin- 
coln's general ability. This lively patron now 
proposed to build a river steamboat, with "run- 
ners for ice and rollers for shoals and dams," of 
which his redoubtable young employee was to be 
captain. But this strange scheme gave way to an- 
other for opening in New Salem a "general store" 
of all goods. This small town had been born only 
a few months before this summer of 1831, and was 
destined to a brief but riotous life of some seven 

1 Hemdon, 75, 76 ; Lamon, 82 ; Arnold, 30 ; N. and H., i. 72. 

2 N. and H., i. 74. 


years' duration. Now it had a dozen or fifteen 
"houses," of which some had cost only ten dollars 
for the building ; yet to the sanguine Offut it pre- 
sented a fair field for retail commerce. He accord- 
ingly equipped his "store," and, being himself en- 
gaged in other enterprises, he installed Lincoln as 
manager. Soon he also gave Lincoln a mill to 

Besides all this patronage, Ofifut went about the 
region bragging in his extravagant way that his 
clerk "knew more than any man in the United 
States," would some day be President, and could 
now throw or thrash any man in those parts. Now 
it so happened that some three miles out from New 
Salem lay Clary's Grove, the haunt of a gang of 
frontier ruffians of the familiar type, among whom 
one Jack Armstrong was champion bully. Offut's 
boasting soon rendered an encounter between Lin- 
coln and Armstrong inevitable, though Lincoln did 
his best to avoid it, and declared his aversion to 
"this woolling and pulling." The wrestling match 
was arranged and the settlers flocked to it like 
Spaniards to a bull-fight. Battle was joined and 
Lincoln was getting the better of Armstrong, 
whereupon the "Clary's Grove boys," with fine 
chivalry, were about to rush in upon Lincoln and 
maim him, or worse, when the timely intervention 
of a prominent citizen possibly saved even the life 
of the future President.^ Some of the biogra- 
phers, borrowing the license of poets, have chosen 

^ Lamon, 92, 93, has the best account of this famous encounter. 


to tell about the "boys" and the wrestling match 
with such picturesque epithets that the combat 
bids fair to appear to posterity as romantic as that 
of Friar Tuck and Robin Hood. Its consequence 
was that Armstrong and Lincoln were fast friends 
ever after. Wherever Lincoln was at work, Arm- 
strong used to "do his loafing," and Lincoln made 
visits to Clary's Grove, and long afterward did a 
friendly service to "old Hannah," Armstrong's 
wife, by saving one of her vicious race from the 
gallows, which upon that especial occasion he did 
not happen to deserve. Also Armstrong and his 
gang gave Lincoln hearty political support, and an 
assistance at the polls which was very effective, for 
success generally smiled on that candidate who had 
as his constituency^ "the butcher -knife boys," 
"the bare-footed boys," the "half -horse, half -alli- 
gator men," and the "huge-pawed boys." 

An item less susceptible of a poetic coloring is 
that about this time Lincoln ransacked the neigh- 
borhood in search of an English grammar, and 
getting trace of one six miles out from the settle- 
ment, he walked over to borrow or to buy it. He 
brought it back in triumph, and studied it exhaus- 

There are also some tales of his honesty which 
may stand without disgrace beside that of Wash- 
ington and the cherry-tree, and may be better en- 
titled to credit. It is said that, while he was 
"keeping shop" for Offut, a woman one day acci- 

1 Ford, Hist, of Illinois, 88. 


dentally overpaid him by the sum of fourpence, and 
that he walked several miles that night to restore 
the sum to her before he slept. On another occa- 
sion, discovering that in selling half a pound of tea 
he had used too small a weight, he started instantly 
forth to make good the deficiency. Perhaps this 
integrity does not so much differentiate Lincoln 
from his fellows as it may seem to do, for it is said 
that honesty was the one distinguishing virtue of 
that queer society. None the less these legends 
are exponents, which the numerous fighting stories 
are not, of the genuine nature of the man. His 
chief trait all his life long was honesty of all kinds 
and in all things ; not only commonplace, material 
honesty in dealings, but honesty in language, in 
purpose, in thought ; honesty of mind, so that he 
could never even practice the most tempting of all 
deceits, a deceit against himseK. This pervasive 
honesty was the trait of his identity, which stayed 
with him from beginning to end, when other traits 
seemed to be changing, appearing or disappearing, 
and bewildering the observer of his career. All 
the while the universal honesty was there. 

It took less than a year for Offut's shop to come 
to ruin, for the proprietor to wander off into the 
unknown void from which he had come, and for 
Lincoln to find himself again without occupation. 
He won some local reputation by navigating the 
steamboat "Talisman" up the Sangamon Kiver to 
Springfield ; but nothing came of it. 

The foregoing narrative ought to have given 


some idea of the moral and physical surroundings 
of Lincoln's early days. Americans need to carry 
their memories hardly fifty years back, in order to 
have a lively conception of that peculiar body of 
men which for many years was pushed out in 
front of civilization in the West. Waifs and 
strays from highly civilized communities, these 
wanderers had not civilization to learn, but rather 
they had shuffled off much that belonged to civili- 
zation, and afterwards they had to acquire it 
afresh. Among them crudity in thought and un- 
couthness in habits were intertwined in odd, incon- 
gruous crossings with the remnants of the more 
respectable customs with which they had once been 
familiar. Much they forgot and much they put 
away as being no longer useful ; many of them — 
not all — became very ignorant without being 
stupid, very brutal without being barbarous. 
Finding life hard, they helped each other with a 
general kindliness which is impracticable among 
the complexities of elaborate social organizations. 
Those who were born on the land, among whom 
Lincoln belonged, were peculiar in having no 
reminiscences, no antecedent ideas derived from 
their own past, whereby to modify the influences 
of the immediate present. What they should 
think about men and things they gathered from 
what they saw and heard around them. Even the 
modification to be got from reading was of the 
slightest, for very little reading was possible, even 
if desired. An important trait of these Western 


communities was the closeness of personal inter- 
course in them, and the utter lack of any kind of 
barriers establishing strata of society. Individ- 
uals might differ ever so widely; but the wisest 
and the dullest, the most worthless and the most 
enterprising, had to rub shoulder to shoulder in 
daily life. Yet the variety was considerable: 
hardy and danger - loving pioneers fulfilling the 
requirements of romance; shiftless vagrants curi- 
ously combining utter inefficiency with a sort of 
bastard contempt for hardship ; ruffians who could 
only offset against every brutal vice an ignoble 
physical courage ; intelligent men whose observant 
eyes ranged over the whole region in a shrewd 
search after enterprise and profit; a few educated 
men, decent in apparel and bearing, useful in legis- 
lation and in preventing the ideal from becoming 
altogether vulgarized and debased; and others 
whose energy was chiefly of the tongue, the class 
imbued with a taste for small politics and the pub- 
lic business. All these and many other varieties 
were like ingredients cast together into a caldron ; 
they could not keep apart, each with his own kind, 
to the degree which is customary in old established 
communities ; but they all ceaselessly crossed and 
mingled and met, and talked, and dealt, and 
helped and hustled each other, and exerted upon 
each other that subtle inevitable influence resulting 
from such constant intercourse ; and so they inocu- 
lated each other with certain characteristics which 
became common to all and formed the type of the 


early settler. Thus was made "the new West," 
"the great West," which was pushed ever onward, 
and endured along each successive frontier for 
about a generation. An eternal movement, a 
tireless coming and going pervaded these men; 
they passed hither and thither without pause, 
phantasmagorically ; they seemed to be forever 
"moving on," some because they were real pio- 
neers and natural rovers, others because they were 
mere vagrants generally drifting away from credi- 
tors, others because the better chance seemed ever 
in the newer place, and all because they had struck 
no roots, gathered no associations, no home ties, 
no local belongings. The shopkeeper "moved 
on" when his notes became too pressing; the 
schoolmaster, after a short stay, left his school to 
some successor whose accomplishments could hardly 
be less than his own ; clergymen ranged vaguely 
through the country, to preach, to pray, to bury, 
to marry, as the case might be ; farmers heard of 
a more fruitful soil, and went to seek it. Men 
certainly had at times to work hard in order to live 
at all, yet it was perfectly possible for the natural 
idler to rove, to loaf, and to be shiftless at inter- 
vals, and to become as demoralized as the tramp 
for whom a shirt and trousers are the sum of 
worldly possessions. Books were scarce ; many 
teachers hardly had as much book-learning as lads 
of thirteen years now have among ourselves. Men 
who could neither read nor write abounded, and 
a deficiency so common could hardly imply much 


disgrace or a marked inferiority; many learned 
these difficult arts only in mature years. Fighting 
was a common pastime, and when these rough fel- 
lows fought, they fought like savages; Lincoln's 
father bit off his adversary's nose in a fight, and 
a cousin lost the same feature in the same way ; 
the "gouging" of eyes was a legitimate resource. 
The necessity of fighting might at any moment 
come to any one ; even the combination of a peace- 
able disposition with formidable strength did not 
save Lincoln from numerous personal affrays, of 
which many are remembered, and not improbably 
many more have been forgotten. Li spite of the 
picturesque adjectives which have been so decora- 
tively used in describing the ruffian of the fron- 
tier, he seems to have been about what his class 
always is; and when these fellows had forced a 
fight, or "set up" a match, their chivalry never 
prevented any unfairness or brutality. A tale 
illustrative of the times is told of a closely con- 
tested election in the legislature for the office of 
State Treasurer. The worsted candidate strode 
into the hall of the Assembly and gallantly select- 
ing four of the largest and strongest of those who 
had voted against him, thrashed them soundly. 
The other legislators ran away. But before the 
close of the session this pugilist, who so well un- 
derstood practical politics, was appointed Clerk of 
the Circuit Court and County Recorder.^ 

Corn bread was the chief article of diet; pota- 

1 Ford, Hist, of Blinois, 81. 


toes were a luxury and were often eaten raw, like 
apples. To the people at large whiskey "straight " 
seemed the natural drink of man, and whiskey 
toddy was not distasteful to woman. To refuse 
to drink was to subject one's self to abuse and sus- 
picion ;i Lincoln's notorious lack of liking for it 
passed for an eccentricity, or a physical peculiar- 
ity. The customary social gatherings were at 
horse - racings, at corn - shuckings, at political 
speech-makings, at weddings, whereat the coarse 
proceedings would not nowadays bear recital; at 
log-rollings, where the neighbors gathered to col- 
lect the logs of a newly cleared lot for burning, 
and at house-raisings, where they kindly aided to 
set up the frame of a cabin for a new-comer; at 
camp-meetings, where the hysterical excitement of 
a community whose religion was more than half 
superstition found clamorous and painful vent;^ 
or perchance at a hanging, which, if it met public 
approbation, would be sanctioned by the gathering 
of the neighbors within a day's journey of the 
scene. At dancing-parties men and women danced 
barefoot; indeed, they could hardly do better, 
since their foot wear was apt to be either mocca- 
sins, or such boots as they themselves could make 
from the hides which they themselves had cured. 
In Lincoln's boyhood the hunting-shirt and leg- 
gins made of skins were a sufficiently respectable 

1 See anecdote in The Good Old Times in McLean County, 48. 
^ " The jerks " was the graphic name of an attack not uncom- 
mon at these religious meetings. 


garb; and buckskin breeches dyed green were 
enough to captivate the heart of any girl who 
wished a fashionable lover ; but by the time that 
he had become a young man, most self-respecting 
men had suits of jeans. The ugly butcher's knife 
and tomahawk, which had been essential as was 
the rapier to the costume of gentlemen two centu- 
ries earlier, began now to be more rarely seen at 
the belt about the waist. The women wore linsey- 
woolsey gowns, of home manufacture, and dyed 
according to the taste or skill of the wearer in 
stripes and bars with the brown juice of the but- 
ternut. In the towns it was not long before calico 
was seen, and calfskin shoes; and in such popu- 
lous centres bonnets decorated the heads of the 
fair sex. Amid these advances in the art of dress 
Lincoln was a laggard, being usually one of the 
worst attired men of the neighborhood; not from 
affectation but from a natural indifference to such 
matters. The sketch is likely to become classical 
in American history of the appearance which he 
presented with his scant pair of trousers, "hitched " 
by a single suspender over his shirt, and so short 
as to expose, at the lower end, haK a dozen inches 
of "shinbone, sharp, blue and narrow." 

In the clearings the dwellings of these men were 
the "half -faced camp" open upon one side to the 
weather, or the doorless, floorless and window- 
less cabin, which, with prosperity, might be made 
luxurious by greased paper in the windows, and 
"puncheon " floors. The furniture was in keeping 


with this exterior. At a corner the bed was con- 
structed by driving into the ground crotched 
sticks, whence poles extended to the crevices of 
the walls ; upon these poles were laid boards, and 
upon these boards were tossed leaves and skins 
and such other alleviating material as could be 
found. Three - legged stools and a table were 
hewed from the felled trees with an axe, which 
was often the settler's only and invaluable tool, 
and which he would travel long miles to sharpen. 
If a woman wanted a looking-glass, she scoured a 
tin pan, but the temptation to inspect one's self 
must have been feeble. A very few kitchen 
utensils completed the outfit. Troughs served for 
washtubs, when washtubs were used; and wooden 
ploughs broke up the virgin soil. The whole was 
little, if at all, more comfortable than the red 
man's wigwam. In "towns," so-called, there was 
of course somewhat more of civilization than in the 
clearings. But one must not be misled by a name ; 
a "town" might signify only a score of houses, 
and the length of its life was wholly problematical ; 
a few days sufficed to build the wooden huts, 
which in a few years might be abandoned. In 
the early days there was almost no money among 
the people ; sometimes barter was resorted to ; one 
lover paid for his marriage license with maple 
sugar, another with wolf -scalps. More often a 
promise sufficed ; credit was a system well under- 
stood, and promissory notes constituted an unques- 
tioned and popular method of payment that would 


have made a millennium for Mr. Micawber. But 
however scant might be cash and houses, each town 
had its grocery, and these famous "stores" were 
by far the chief influence in shaping the ideas of 
the Westerner. There all congregated, the idlers 
all day long, the busy men in the evening; and 
there, stimulated by the whiskey of the proprietor, 
they gossiped about everybody's affairs, talked 
about business and the prospects of the neighbor- 
hood, and argued about the politics of the county, 
the state, and even of the nation. Jokes and 
stories, often most uncouth and gross, whiled away 
the time. It was in these groceries, and in the 
rough crucible of such talk, wherein grotesque 
imagery and extravagant phrases were used to ridi- 
cule pretension and to bring every man to his place, 
sometimes also to escape taking a hard fact too 
hardly, that what we now call "American humor," 
with its peculiar native flavor, was born. To this 
it is matter of tradition that Lincoln contributed 
liberally. He liked neighborly chat and discus- 
sion; and his fondness for political debate, and 
his gifts in tale and jest made him the most popu- 
lar man in every "store" that he entered. It is 
commonly believed that the effect of this familiar- 
ity with coarse talk did not afterward disappear, 
so that he never became fastidious in language or in 
story. But apologists of this habit are doubtless 
correct in saying that vulgarity in itself had no 
attraction for him; it simply did not repel him, 
when with it there was a flavor of humor or a use- 


fill point. Apparently it simply meant nothing to 
him; a mental attitude which is not difficult of 
comprehension in view of its origin. ^ 

Some of the most picturesque and amusing pages 
of Ford's "History of Illinois " describe the condi- 
tion of the bench and bar of these times.^ "Boys, 
come in, our John is going to hold court," pro- 
claimed the sheriff; and the "boys" loitered into 
the bar-room of the tavern, or into a log cabin 
where the judge sat on the bed and thus, really 
from the woolsack, administered "law" mixed with 
equity as best he knew it. Usually these magis- 
trates were prudent in guiding the course of prac- 
tical justice, and rarely summed up the facts lest 
they should make dangerous enemies, especially in 
criminal cases ; they often refused to state the law, 
and generally for a very good reason. They liked 
best to turn the whole matter over to the jurors, 
who doubtless "understood the case, and would do 
justice between the parties." The books of the 
science were scarce, and lawyers who studied them 
were perhaps scarcer. But probably substantial 
fairness in decision did not suffer by reason of 
lack of sheepskin learning. 

Politics for a long while were strictly personal; 
the elections did not turn upon principles or mea- 
sures, but upon the popular estimate of the candi- 

^ See Herndon, 104, 113 ; Holland has some singular remarks 
on this subject, p. 83; N- and H., i. 121, say that Lincoln was 
" clean of speech," — an agreeable statement, for which one would 
like to have some authority. 

2 Ford, Hist, of Illinois, 82-86. 


dates individually. Political discussion meant un- 
stinted praise and unbounded vilification. A man 
might, if he chose, resent a vote against himself as 
a personal insult, and hence arose much secrecy 
and the "keep dark" system. Stump-speaking, 
whiskey and fighting were the chief elements of a 
campaign, and the worst class in society furnished 
the most efficient backing. ^ 

Such was the condition of men and things in the 
neighborhood where Abraham Lincoln was shap- 
ing in the days of his youth. Yet it was a con- 
dition which did not last long; Illinois herself 
changed and grew as rapidly as any youngster 
within her borders. The rate of advance in all 
that goes to make up what we now regard as a civ- 
ilized society was astonishing. Between the time 
when Lincoln was fifteen and when he was twenty- 
five, the alteration was so great as to be confus- 
ing. One hardly became familiar with a condition 
before it had vanished. Some towns began to ac- 
quire an aspect of permanence; clothes and man- 
ners became like those prevalent in older commu- 
nities ; many men were settling down in established 
residence, identifying themselves with the fortunes 
of their neighborhood. Young persons were grow- 
ing up and staying where they had been "raised," 
as the phrase of a farming community had it. 
Comfortable and presentable two-story houses lent 
an air of prosperity and stimulated ambition ; law- 

1 Ford, Hist, of Illinois, 55, 86, 88, 104; Herndon, 103; N. and 
H., i. 107; Lamon, 124, 230. 


books began to be collected in small numbers; and 
debts were occasionally paid in money, and could 
often be collected by legal process. These im- 
provements were largely due to the swelling tide 
of immigration which brought men of a better type 
to push their enterprises in a country presumably 
emerging from its disagreeable stage. But the 
chief educational influence was to be found in the 
Anglo-American passion for an argument and a 
speech. Hand in hand, as has so long been the 
custom in our country, law and politics moved 
among the people, who had an inborn, inherited 
taste for both; these stimulated and educated the 
settlers in a way that only Americans can appre- 
ciate. When Lincoln, as is soon to be seen, 
turned to them, he turned to what then and there 
appeared the highest callings which could tempt 
intellect and ambition. 

The preeminently striking feature in Lincoln's 
nature — not a trait of character, but a character- 
istic of the man — which is noteworthy in these 
early days, and grew more so to the very latest, 
was the extraordinary degree to which he always 
appeared to be in close and sympathetic touch with 
the people, that is to say, the people in the mass 
wherein he was imbedded, the social body amid 
which he dwelt, which pressed upon him on all 
sides, which for him formed "the public." First 
this group or body was only the population of the 
frontier settlement ; then it widened to include the 
State of Illinois ; then it expanded to the popula- 


tion of the entire North; and such had come to be 
the popular appreciation of this remarkably devel- 
oped quality that, at the time of his death, his ad- 
mirers even dared to believe that it would be able 
to make itself one with all the heterogeneous, dis- 
cordant, antagonistic elements which then com- 
posed the very disunited United States. It is by 
reason of this quality that it has seemed necessary 
to depict so far as possible that peculiar, transi- 
tory phase of society which surrounded his early 
days. This quality in him caused him to be ex- 
ceptionally susceptible to the peculiar influences 
of the people among whom his lot was cast. This 
quality for awhile prevented his differentiating 
himself from them, prevented his accepting stand- 
ards and purposes imlike theirs either in speech 
or action, prevented his rising rapidly to a higher 
moral plane than theirs. This quality kept him es- 
sentially one of them, until his "people" and his 
"public " expanded beyond them. It has been the 
fashion of his admirers to manifest an extreme dis- 
taste for a truthful presentation of his earlier days. 
Some writers have passed very lightly over them ; 
others, stating plain facts with a formal accuracy, 
have used their skill to give to the picture an un- 
truthful miscoloring; two or three, instinct with 
the spirit of Zola, have made their sketch with 
plain unsparing realism in color as well as in lines, 
and so have brought upon themselves abuse, and 
perhaps have deserved much of it, by reason of 
a lack of skill in doing an unwelcome thing, or 


rather by reason of over-doing it. The feeling 
which has led to suppression or to a falsely ro- 
mantic description seems to me unreasonable and 
wrong. The very quality which made Lincoln, as 
a young man, not much superior to his coarse sur- 
roundings was precisely the same quality which, 
ripening and expanding rapidly and grandly with 
maturing years and a greater circle of humanity, 
made him what he was in later life. It is through 
this quality that we get continuity in him ; with- 
out it, we cannot evade the insoluble problem of 
two men, — two lives, — one following the other 
with no visible link of connection between them ; 
without it we have physically one creature, morally 
and mentally two beings. If we reject this trait, 
we throw away the only key which unlocks the 
problem of the most singular life, taken from end 
to end, which has ever been witnessed among men, 
a life which many have been content to regard as 
an unsolved enigma. But if we admit and really 
perceive and feel the full force of this trait, devel- 
oped in him in a degree probably unequalled in the 
annals of men, then, besides the enlightenment 
which it brings, we have the great satisfaction of 
eliminating much of the disagreeableness attendant 
upon his youthful days. Even the commonness 
and painful coarseness of his foolish written ex- 
pressions become actually an exponent of his chief 
and crowning quality, his receptiveness and his 
expression of humanity, — that is to say, of all the 
humanity he then knew. At first he expressed 


what lie could discern with the limited, inexpe- 
rienced vision of the ignorant son of a wretched 
vagrant pioneer; later he gave expression to the 
humanity of a people engaged in a purpose physi- 
cally and morally as vast and as grand as any enter- 
prise which the world has seen. Thus, with perfect 
fairness, without wrenching or misrepresentation or 
sophistry, the ugliness of his youth ceases to be his 
own and becomes only the presentation of a curious 
social condition. In his youth he expressed a low 
condition, in later life a noble one ; at each period 
he expressed correctly what he found. His day 
and generation uttered itself through him. With 
such thoughts, and from this point of view, it is 
possible to contemplate Lincoln's early days, amid 
all their degraded surroundings and influences and 
unmarked by apparent antagonism or obvious 
superiority on his part, without serious dismay. 



In Illinois during the years of Lincoln's boy- 
hood the red man was retiring sullenly before the 
fatal advance of the white man's frontier. Shoot- 
ing, scalping, and plundering forays still occurred, 
and in the self-complaisant reminiscences of the 
old settlers of that day the merciless and mysteri- 
ous savage is apt to lend to the narrative the lively 
coloring of mortal danger.^ In the spring of 1832 
a noted chief of the Sacs led a campaign of such 
importance that it lives in history under the 
dignified title of "the Black Hawk war." The 
Indians gathered in numbers so formidable that 
Governor Reynolds issued a call for volunteers to 
aid the national forces. Lincoln, left imemployed 
by the failure of Offut, at once enlisted. The 
custom then was, so soon as there were enough re- 
cruits for a company, to elect a captain by vote. 
The method was simple: each candidate stood at 
some point in the field and the men went over to 
one or another according to their several prefer- 
ences. Three fourths of the company to which 
Lincoln belonged ranged themselves with him, and 

^ The Good Old Times in McLean County, passim. 


long afterward he used to say that no other success 
in life had given him such pleasure as did this one. 
The company was attached to the Fourth Illinois 
Regiment, commanded by Colonel Samuel Thomp- 
son, in the brigade of General Samuel Whiteside. 
On April 27 they started for the scene of conflict, 
and for many days endured much hardship of hun- 
ger and rough marching. But thereby they es- 
caped serious danger, for they were too fatigued 
to go forward on May 12, when the cavalry battal- 
ions rode out gallantly, recklessly, perhaps a little 
stupidly, into ambush and death. It so happened 
that Lincoln never came nearer to any engagement 
than he did to this one of "Stillman's Run;" so 
that, in place of military glory, he had to be con- 
tent with the reputation of being the best comrade 
and story-teller at the camp fire. He had, how- 
ever, an opportunity to do one honorable act : the 
brief term of service of the volunteers expired on 
May 27, and most of them eagerly hastened away 
from an irksome task, without regard to the fact 
that their services were still much needed, whereas 
Lincoln and some other officers reenlisted as pri- 
vates. They were made the "Independent Spy 
Battalion" of mounted volunteers, were given 
many special privileges, but were concerned in no 
engagement, and erelong were mustered out of 
service. Lincoln's certificate of discharge was 
signed by Robert Anderson, who afterward was in 
command at Fort Sumter at the outbreak of the 
rebellion. Thus, late in June, Lincoln was again 


a civilian in New Salem, and was passing from 
war to politics. 

Nomination by caucus had not yet been intro- 
duced into Illinois, 1 and any person who wished to 
be a candidate for an elective office simply made 
public announcement of the fact and then con- 
ducted his campaign as best he could.^ On March 
9, 1832, shortly before his enlistment, Lincoln 
issued a manifesto, "To the People of Sangamon 
County," in which he informed them that he 
should run as a candidate for the State Legislature 
at the autumn elections, and told them his political 
principles.^ He was in favor of internal improve- 
ments, such as opening roads, clearing streams, 
building a railroad across Sangamon County, and 
making the Sangamon River straight and naviga- 
ble. He advocated a usury law, and hazarded the 
extraordinary argument that "in cases of extreme 
necessity, there could always be means found to 
cheat the law; while in all other cases it would 
have its intended effect." A law ameliorated by 
infractions is no uncommon thing, but this is per- 
haps the only instance in which a law has been 
befriended on the ground that it can be circum- 

1 It was first advocated in 1835-36, and was adopted by slow de- 
grees thereafter. Ford, Hist, of Illinois, 204. 

2 Ibid., 201. 

^ Lamon, 129, where is given the text of the manifesto ; Hern- 
don, 101 ; N. and H., i. 101, 105 ; Holland, 53, says that after his 
return from the Black Hawk campaign, Lincoln " was applied to " 
to become a candidate, and that the " application was a great sur- 
prise to him." This seems an obvious error, in view of the mani- 
festo ; yet see Lamon, 122. 


vented. He believed that every man should "re- 
ceive at least a moderate education." He depre- 
cated changes in existing laws; for, he said, "con- 
sidering the great probability that the framers of 
those laws were wiser than myself, I should pre- 
fer not meddling with them." The clumsy phrase- 
ology of his closing paragraph coupled not badly a 
frank avowal of ambition with an ingenuous expres- 
sion of personal modesty. The principles thus set 
forth were those of Clay and the Whigs, and at 
this time the "best people" in Sangamon County 
belonged to this party. The Democrats, on the 
other hand, did not much concern themselves with 
principles, but accepted General Jackson in place 
thereof, as constituting in himself a party plat- 
form. In the rough-and-tumble pioneer commun- 
ity they could not do better, and for many years 
they had controlled the State; indeed, Lincoln 
himself had felt no small loyalty towards a presi- 
dent who admirably expressed Western civilization. 
Now, however, he considered himself "an avowed 
Clay man," ^ and besides the internal improvement 
system he spoke also for a national bank, and a 
high protective tariff ; probably he knew very little 
about either, but his partisanship was perfect, for 
if there was any distinguishing badge of an anti- 
Jackson Whig, it certainly was advocacy of a 
national bank. 

1 N. and H., i. 102. Lamon regards him as " a nominal Jack- 
son man " in contradistinction to a " ■whole-hog Jackson man ; " as 
" Whiggish " rather than actually a Whig. Lamon, 123, 126. 


After his return from the "war," Lincohi set 
about electioneering with a good show of energy. 
He hardly anticipated success, but at least upon 
this trial trip he expected to make himself known 
to the people and to gain useful experience. He 
"stumped " his own county thoroughly, and is said 
to have made speeches which were blunt, crude, 
and inartificial, but not displeasing to his audi- 
ences. A story goes that once "a general fight" 
broke out among his hearers, and one of his friends 
was getting roughly handled, whereupon Lincoln, 
descending from the rostrum, took a hand in the 
affray, tossed one of the assailants "ten or twelve 
feet, easily," and then continued his harangue. 
Yet not even thus could he win, and another was 
chosen over his head. He had, however, more 
reason to be gratified than disappointed with the 
result; for, though in plain fact he was a raw and 
unknown youngster, he stood third upon a list of 
eight candidates, receiving 657 votes; and out of 
208 votes cast in his own county, he scored 205.^ 
In this there was ample encouragement for the 

The political campaign being over, and legisla- 
tive functions postponed, Lincoln was brought 
face to face with the pecuniary problem. He con- 
templated, not without approbation, the calling of 
the blacksmith; but the chance to obtain a part 
interest in a grocery "store" tempted him into an 
occupation for which he was little fitted. He be- 
1 Hemdon, 105. But see N. and H., i. 109. 


came junior partner in the firm of Berry & Lin- 
coln, which, by executing and delivering sundry 
notes of hand, absorbed the whole grocery business 
of the town. But Lincoln was hopelessly ineffi- 
cient behind the counter, and Berry was a tippler. 
So in a year's time the store "winked out," leav- 
ing as its only important trace those ill-starred 
scraps of paper by which it had been founded. 
Berry "moved on "from the inconvenient neigh- 
borhood, and soon afterward died, contributing 
nothing to reduce the indebtedness. Lincoln 
patiently continued to make payments during sev- 
eral years to come, until he had discharged the 
whole amount. It was only a few hundred dollars, 
but to him it seemed so enormous that betwixt 
jest and earnest he called it "the national debt." 
So late as in 1848, when he was a member of the 
House of Representatives at Washington, he ap- 
plied part of his salary to this old indebtedness. 

During this "store "-keeping episode he had be- 
gun to study law, and while "keeping shop" he 
was with greater diligence reading Blackstone and 
such other elementary classics of the profession 
as he could borrow. He studied with zeal and 
became absorbed in his books. Perched upon 
a woodpile, or lying under a tree with his feet 
thrust upwards against the trunk and "grinding 
around with the shade," he caused some neighbors 
to laugh uproariously, and others to say that he 
was daft. In fact, he was in grim earnest, and 
held on his way with much persistence. 


May 7, 1833, Lincoln was commissioned as post- 
master at New Salem. His method of distribut- 
ing the scanty mail was to put all the letters in 
his hat, and to hand them out as he happened to 
meet the persons to whom they were addressed. 
The emoluments could hardly have gone far 
towards the discharge of "the national debt." His 
incumbency in this office led to a story worth tell- 
ing. When New Salem, and by necessity also the 
post-office, like the grocery shop, "winked out," in 
1836, there was a trifling balance of sixteen or 
eighteen dollars due from Lincoln to the govern- 
ment. Several years afterward, when he was prac- 
ticing law in Springfield, the government agent 
at last appeared to demand a settlement. Lincoln 
went to his trunk and drew forth "an old blue 
sock with a quantity of silver and copper coin tied 
up in it," the identical bits of money which he had 
gathered from the people at New Salem, and 
which, through many days of need in the long in- 
tervening period, he had not once touched. 

Fortunately an occupation now offered itself 
which was more lucrative, and possessed also the 
valuable quality of leaving niches of leisure for 
the study of the law. The mania for speculation 
in land had begun in Illinois; great tracts were 
being cut up into "town lots," and there was as 
lively a market for real estate as the world has 
ever seen. The official surveyor of the county, 
John Calhoun, had more work than he could do, 
and offered to appoint Lincoln as a deputy. A 


little study made him competent for the work, 
which he performed for some time with admirable 
accuracy, if the stories are to be believed. But 
he had not long enjoyed the mild prosperity of 
this new career ere an untoward interruption came 
from a creditor of the extinct grocery firm. This 
man held one of the notes representing "the 
national debt," and now levied execution upon 
Lincoln's horse and surveying instruments. Two 
friends, however, were at hand in this hour of need, 
and Bolin Greene and James Short are gratefully 
remembered as the men who generously furnished, 
in that actual cash which was so scarce in Illinois, 
the sums of one hundred and twenty -five dollars 
and one hundred and twenty dollars respectively, 
to redeem these essential implements of Lincoln's 

The summer of 1834 found Lincoln again a can- 
didate for the legislature. He ran as a Whig, 
but he received and accepted offers of aid from the 
Democrats, and their votes swelled the flattering 
measure of his success. It has usually been stated 
that he led the four successful candidates, the poll 
standing: Lincoln, 1,376; Dawson, 1,370; Car- 
penter, 1,170; Stuart, 1,164. But Mr. Herndon 
adduces evidence that Dawson's number was 1,390, 
whereby Lincoln is relegated to the second place. 
Holland tells us that he " shouldered his pack and 
on foot trudged to Vandalia, then the capital of 
the State, about a hundred miles, to make his en- 
trance into public life." But the correcting pen 


of the later biographer interferes with this dra- 
matic incident also. For it seems that after the 
result of the election was known Lincoln visited a 
friend, Coleman Smoot, and said : " Did you vote 
for me ? " "I did," replied Smoot. "Then," said 
Lincoln, "you must lend me two hundred dollars ! " 
This seemed a peculiar sequitur, for ordinary polit- 
ical logic would have made any money that was to 
pass between voter and candidate move the other 
way. Yet Smoot accepted the consequence en- 
tailed in part by his own act, and furnished the 
money, whereby Lincoln was able to purchase a 
new suit of clothes and to ride in the stage to 

The records of this legislature show nothing 
noteworthy. Lincoln was very inappropriately 
placed on the Committee on Public Accounts and 
Expenditures; also it is recorded that he intro- 
duced a resolution to obtain for the State a part of 
the proceeds of the public lands sold within it. 
What has chiefly interested the chroniclers is, that 
at this session he first saw Stephen A. Douglas, 
then a lobbyist, and said of him : " He is the least 
man I ever saw." Lincoln's part seems to have 
been rather that of an observer than of an actor. 
The account given is that he was watching, learn- 
ing, making acquaintances, prudently preparing 
for future success, rather than endeavoring to seize 
it too greedily. In fact, there is reason to believe 
that his thoughts were intent on far other matter 
than the shaping of laws and statutes. For to this 


period belongs the episode of Ann Rutledge. The 
two biographers whose personal knowledge is the 
best regard this as the one real romance of Lin- 
coln's life. Heretofore he had held himself shyly 
aloof from women's society, but this maiden won 
his heart. She comes before posterity amid a 
glamour of rhetorical description, which attributes 
to her every grace of form and feature, every charm 
of character and intellect. She was but a school- 
girl of seventeen years when two men became her 
lovers ; a year or more afterward she became en- 
gaged to one of them, but before they could be 
married, he made a somewhat singular excuse for 
going to New York on family affairs. His absence 
was prolonged and his letters became few. People 
said that the girl had been deceived, and Lincoln 
began to hope that the way was clearing for him. 
But under the prolonged strain Miss Rutledge 's 
health broke down, and on August 25, 1835, she 
died of brain fever. Lincoln was allowed to see 
her as she lay near her end. The effect upon him 
was grievous. Many declared him crazy, and his 
friends feared that he might go so far as to take 
his own life ; they watched him closely, and one of 
them at last kindly took him away from the scene 
of his sufferings for a while, and bore him constant 
and cheering company. In time the cloud passed, 
but it seems certain that on only one or two other 
occasions in his life did that deep melancholy, 
which formed a permanent background to his tem- 
perament, take such overmastering, such alarming, 


and merciless possession of him. He was afflicted 
sorely with a constitutional tendency to gloom, 
and the evil haunted him all his life long. Like a 
dark fog-bank it hung, always dull and threaten- 
ing, on the verge of his horizon, sometimes rolling 
heavily down upon him, sometimes drawing off into 
a more or less remote distance, but never wholly 
disappearing. Every one saw it in his face and 
often felt it in his manner, and few pictures of him 
have been made so bad as not in some degree to 
present it. The access of it which was brought 
on by this unhappy love affair was somewhat odd 
and uncouth in its manifestations, but was so gen- 
uine and sincere that one feels that he was truly 
imdergoing the baptism of a great sorrow. 

At no other point is there more occasion to note 
this trait of character, which presents a curious 
and interesting subject for study. Probably no 
exhaustive solution is possible. One wanders off 
into the mystery of human nature, loses his way in 
the dimness of that which can be felt but cannot 
be expressed, and becomes aware of even dimmer 
regions beyond in which it is vain to grope. It is 
well known that the coarse and rough side of life 
among the pioneers had its reaction in a reserved 
and at times morose habit, nearly akin to sadness, 
at least in those who frequented the wilderness ; it 
was the expression of the influence of the vast, 
desolate and lonely nature amid which they passed 
their lives. It is true that Lincoln was never a 
backwoodsman, and never roved alone for long 


periods among the shadowy forests and the limit- 
less prairies, so that their powerful and weird in- 
fluences, though not altogether remote, never bore 
upon him in full force; yet their effect was every- 
where around him, and through others he imbibed 
it, for his disposition was sensitive and sympa- 
thetic for such purposes. That there was also a 
simple prosaic physical inducement cannot be de- 
nied. Hardship and daily discomfort in all the 
arrangements of life counted for something, and 
especially so the bad food, greasy, imwholesome, 
horribly cooked, enough to afflict an ostrich with 
the blue devils of dyspepsia. The denizen of the 
town devoured messes vastly worse than the simple 
meal of the hunter and trapper, and did not coun- 
teract the ill effect by hard exercise in the free, 
inspiring air. Such facts must be considered, 
though they diminish the poetry which rhetori- 
cians and sentimentalists have cast over the melan- 
choly of Lincoln's temperament. Yet they fall 
far short of wholly accounting for a gloom which 
many have loved to attribute to the mysticism of a 
great destiny, as though the awful weight of his 
immense task was making itself felt in his strange, 
brooding nature long years before any human 
prophet could have forecast any part of that which 
was to come. In this apparent vague conscious- 
ness of the oppression of a great burden of toil, 
duty, and responsibility, casting its shadow so far 
before, there is something so fascinating to the 
imagination of man, that we cannot quite forego 


it, or accept any explanation which would compel 
us altogether to part with it. The shuddering awe 
and terrible sense of fate, which the grandeur of 
the Greek tragedies so powerfully expresses, come 
to us when we contemplate this strange cloud 
which never left Lincoln in any year after his ear- 
liest youth, although some traits in his character 
seemed often incomprehensibly to violate it, and 
like rebellious spirits, to do outrage to it, while, 
in fact, they only made it the more striking, pic- 
turesque, and mysterious. But, after all explana- 
tions have been made, the conclusion must be that 
there is no one and only thread to guide us through 
the labyrinth to the heart of this singular trait, 
and each of us must follow that which his own na- 
ture renders intelligible or congenial for him. To 
us, who know the awful closing acts of his life- 
drama, it seems so appropriate that there should 
be an impressive unity, and so an inevitable back- 
ward influence working from the end towards the 
beginning, that we cannot avoid, nor would avoid, 
an instinctive belief that an occult moral and men- 
tal condition already existed in the years of Lin- 
coln's life which we are now observing, although 
the profound cause of that condition lay wholly in 
the future, in the years which were still far away. 
There is a charm in the very imreason and mysti- 
cism of such a faith, and mankind will never quite 
fail to fancy, if not actually to believe, that the 
life which Lincoln had to live in the future 
wrought in some inexplicable way upon the life 


whicli he was living in the present. The explana- 
tion is not more strange than the enigma. 

Returning now to the narrative, an unpleasant 
necessity is encountered. It must be confessed 
that the atmosphere of romance which lingers 
around this love-tale of the fair and sweet Ann 
Rutledge, so untimely taken away, is somewhat 
attenuated by the fact that only some fifteen 
months rolled by after she was laid in the ground 
before Lincoln was again intent upon matrimony. 
In the autumn of 1836 Miss Mary Owens, of Ken- 
tucky, appeared in New Salem, — a comely lass, 
with "large blue eyes," "fine trimmings," and a 
long and varied list of attractions. Lincoln imme- 
diately began to pay court to her, but in an un- 
gainly and morbid fashion. It is impossible to 
avoid feeling that his mind was not yet in a natural 
and healthy condition. While offering to marry 
her, he advised her not to have him. Upon her 
part she found him "deficient in those little links 
which make up the chain of woman's happiness." 
So she would none of him, but wedded another and 
became the mother of some Confederate soldiers. 
Lincoln did not suffer on this second occasion as 
he had done on the first; and in the spring of 
1838 he wrote upon the subject one of the most 
unfortunate epistles ever penned, in which he 
turned the whole affair into coarse and almost ri- 
bald ridicule. In fact he seems as much out of 
place in dealing with women and with love, as he 
was in place in dealing with politicians and with 


politics, and it is pleasant to return from the 
former to the latter topics. ^ 

The spring of 1836 found Lincoln again nomi- 
nating himself before the citizens of Sangamon 
County, but for the last time. His party de- 
nounced the caucus system as a "Yankee con- 
trivance, intended to abridge the liberties of the 
people; " but they soon found that it would be as 
sensible to do battle with pikes and bows after the 
invention of muskets and cannon, as to continue 
to oppose free self-nomination to the Jacksonian 
method of nomination by convention. In enjoying 
this last opportunity, not only of presenting him- 
self, but also of constructing his own "platform," 
Lincoln published the following card : — 

1 The whole story of these two love affairs is given at great 
length by Herndon and by Lamon. Other biographers deal 
lightly with these episodes. Nicolay and Hay scantly refer to 
them, and, in their admiration for Mr. Lincoln, even permit them- 
selves to speak of that most abominable letter to Mrs. Browning 
as "grotesquely comic." (Vol. i. p. 192.) It is certainly true 
that the revelations of Messrs. Herndon and Lamon are painful, 
and in part even humiliating ; and it would be most satisfactory 
to give these things the go-by. But this seems impossible ; if one 
wishes to study and comprehend the character of Mr. Lincoln, the 
strange and morbid condition in which he was for some years at 
this time cannot possibly be passed over. It may even be said 
that it would be unfair to him to do so ; and a truthful idea of 
him, on the whole, redounds more to his credit than a maimed 
and mutilated one, even though the mutilation seems to consist in 
lopping off and casting out of sight a deformity. Psychologically, 
perhaps physiologically, these episodes are interesting, and as aid- 
ing a comprehension of Mr. Lincoln's nature, they are indispen- 
sable ; but historically they are of no consequence, and I am glad 
that the historical character of this work gives me the right to 
dwell upon them lightly. 


New Salem, June 13, 1836. 
To THE Editor of the Journal : — 

In your paper of last Saturday I see a communica- 
tion over the signature of " Many Voters " in which 
the candidates who are announced in the " Journal " are 
called upon to " show their hands." Agreed. Here 's 

I go for all sharing the privileges of the government 
who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go 
for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay 
taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding females). 

If elected, I shall consider the whole people of San- 
gamon my constituents, as well those that oppose as those 
that support me. 

While acting as their representative, I shall be gov- 
erned by their will on aU subjects upon which I have the 
means of knowing what their will is ; and upon all others 
I shall do what my own judgment teaches me will best 
advance their interests. Whether elected or not, I go 
for distributing the proceeds of the sales of public lands 
to the several States to enable our State, in common with 
others, to dig canals and construct railroads without bor- 
rowing money and paying the interest on it. 

If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall 
vote for Hugh L. White for President. 

Very respectfully, A. Lincoln. 

The canvass was conducted after the usual fash- 
ion, with stump-speaking, fighting and drinking. 
Western voters especially fancied the joint debate 
between rivals, and on such exciting occasions were 
apt to come to the arbitrament of fists and knives. 
But it is pleasant to hear that Lincoln calmed 


rather tlian excited such affrays, and that once, 
when Ninian W. Edwards climbed upon a table 
and screamed at his opponent the lie direct, Lin- 
coln replied by "so fair a speech" that it quelled 
the discord. Henceforward he practiced a calm, 
carefully-weighed, dispassionate style in present- 
ing facts and arguments. Even if he cultivated it 
from appreciation of its efficiency, at least his skill 
in it was due to the fact that it was congenial to 
his nature, and that his mind worked instinctively 
along these lines. His mental constitution, his 
way of thinking, were so honest that he always 
seemed to be a man sincerely engaged in seeking 
the truth, and who, when he believed that he had 
found it, would tell it precisely as he saw it, and 
tell it all. This was the distinguishing trait or 
habit which differentiates Lincoln from too many 
other political speakers and writers in the country. 
Yet with it he combined the character of a practi- 
cal politician and a stanch party man. No party 
has a monopoly of truth and is always in the right; 
but Lincoln, with the advantage of being natu- 
rally fair-minded to a rare degree, understood that 
the best ingenuity is fairness, and that the second 
best ingenuity is the appearance of fairness. 

A pleasant touch of his humor illumined this 
campaign. George Forquer, once a Whig but 
now a Democrat and an office-holder, had lately 
built for himself the finest house in Springfield, 
and had decorated it with the first lightning-rod 
ever seen in the neighborhood. One day, after 


Forquer had been berating Lincobi as a young 
man who must "be taken down," Lincohi turned 
to the audience with a few words : " It is for you, 
not for me, to say whether I am up or down. The 
gentleman has alluded to my being a young man ; ^ 
I am older in years than I am in the tricks and 
trades of politicians. I desire to live, and I desire 
place and distinction as a politician; but I would 
rather die now than, like the gentleman, live to 
see the day when I should have to erect a light- 
ning-rod to protect a guilty conscience from an 
offended God." 

There are other stories of this campaign, amus- 
ing and characteristic of the region and the times, 
but which there is not room to repeat. The result 
of it was that Sangamon County, hitherto Demo- 
cratic, was now won by the Whigs, and that Lin- 
coln had the personal satisfaction of leading the 
poll. The County had in the legislature nine repre- 
sentatives, tall fellows all, not one of them stand- 
ing less than six feet, so that they were nicknamed 
"the Long Nine." Such was their authority, that 
one of them afterward said : "All the bad or objec- 
tionable laws passed at that session of the legisla- 
ture, and for many years afterward, were charge- 
able to the management and influence of the 
'Long Nine.'" This was a damning confession, 

^ It is amiTsing' to compare this Western oratory with the fa- 
mous outburst of the younger Pitt which he opened with those 
familiar words : " The atrocious crime of being a young man 
which the honorable gentleman has with such spirit and decency 
charged upon me," etc., etc. 


for the "bad and objectionable" laws of that ses- 
sion were numerous. A mania possessed the peo- 
ple. The whole State was being cut up into towns 
and cities and house-lots, so that town-lots were 
said to be the only article of export.^ A system 
of internal improvements at the public expense was 
pushed forward with incredible recklessness. The 
State was to be "gridironed" with thirteen hun- 
dred miles of railroad; the courses of the rivers 
were to be straightened; and where nature had 
neglected to supply rivers, canals were to be dug. 
A loan of twelve millions of dollars was authorized, 
and the counties not benefited thereby received 
gifts of cash. The bonds were issued and sent to 
the bankers of New York and of Europe, and work 
was vigorously begun. The terrible financial 
panic of 1837 ought to have administered an early 
check to this madness. But it did not. Resolu- 
tions of popular conventions instructed legislators 
to institute "a general system of internal improve- 
ments," which should be "commensurate with the 
wants of the people;" and the law-givers obeyed 
as implicitly as if each delegate was lighting his 
steps by an Aladdin's lamp. 

With this mad current Lincoln swam as wildly 
and as ignorantly as did any of his comrades. He 
was absurdly misplaced as a member of the Com- 
mittee on Finance. Never in his life did he show 
the slightest measure of "money sense." He had, 

^ For the whole history of the rise, prc^ess, and downfall of 
this mania, see Ford, Hist, of Illinois, ch. vi. 


however, declared his purpose to be governed by 
the will of his constituents in all matters in which 
he knew that will, and at this time he apparently- 
held the American theory that the multitude prob- 
ably possesses the highest wisdom, and that at 
any rate the majority is entitled to have its way. 
Therefore, in this ambitious enterprise of putting 
Illinois at the very forefront of the civilized world 
by an outburst of fine American energy, his ardor 
was as warm as that of the warmest, and his intel- 
ligence was as utterly misled as that of the most 
ignorant. He declared his ambition to be "the 
DeWitt Clinton of Illinois." After the inevitable 
crash had come, amid the perplexity of general 
ruin and distress, he honestly acknowledged that 
he had blundered very badly. Nevertheless, no 
vengeance was exacted of him by the people ; which 
led Governor Ford to say that it is safer for a pol- 
itician to be wrong with his constituents than to 
be right against them, and to illustrate this pro- 
found truth by naming Lincoln among the " spared 
monuments of popular wrath." 

"The Long Nine " had in this legislature a task 
peculiarly their own : to divide Sangamon County, 
and to make Springfield instead of Vandalia the 
State capital. Amid all the whirl of the legisla- 
tion concerning improvements Lincoln kept this 
especial purpose always in view. It is said that 
his skill was infinite, and that he never lost heart. 
He gained the reputation of being the best "log- 
roller " in the legislature, and no measure got the 


support of the "Long Nine" without a contract 
for votes to be given in return for the removal of 
the State capital. It is unfortunate that such 
methods should enjoy the prestige of having been 
conspicuously practiced by Abraham Lincoln, but 
the evidence seems to establish the fact. That 
there was anything objectionable in the skillful 
performance of such common transactions as the 
trading of votes probably never occurred to him, 
being a professional politician, any more than it 
did to his constituents, who triumphed noisily in 
this success, and welcomed their candidates home 
with great popular demonstrations of approval. ^ 

A more agreeable occurrence at this session is 
the position taken by Lincoln concerning slavery, 
a position which was looked upon with extreme 
disfavor in those days in that State, and which he 
voluntarily assumed when he was not called upon 
to act or commit himseK in any way concerning 
the matter. During the session sundry resolutions 
were passed, disapproving abolition societies and 
doctrines, asserting the sacredness of the right of 
property in slaves in the slave States, and alleging 
that it would be against good faith to abolish slav- 
ery in the District of Columbia without the consent 
of the citizens of the District. Two days before 
the end of the session, March 3, 1837, Lincoln 

1 Ford, Hist, of Illinois, 186 ; Lamon, 198-201 ; Hemdon, 176, 
180. N. and H., i. 137-139, endeavor to give a different color to 
this transaction, but they make out no ease as against the state- 
ments of writers who had such opportunities to know the truth as 
had Gov. Ford, Lamon and Hemdon. 


introduced a strenuous protest. It bore only one 
signature besides his own, and doubtless this fact 
was fortunate for Lincoln, since it probably pre- 
vented the document from attracting the attention 
and resentment of a community which, at the 
time, by no means held the opinion that there was 
either "injustice" or "bad policy" in the great 
" institution " of the South. It was within a few 
months after this very time that the atrocious per- 
secution and murder of Love joy took place in the 
neighboring town of Alton. 

In such hours as he could snatch from politics 
and bread- winning Lincoln had continued to study 
law, and in March, 1837, he was admitted to the 
bar. He decided to establish himself in Spring- 
field, where certainly he deserved a kindly wel- 
come in return for what he had done towards mak- 
ing it the capital. It was a little town of only 
between one and two thousand inhabitants; but to 
Lincoln it seemed a metropolis. "There is a 
great deal of flourishing about in carriages here," 
he wrote; there were also social distinctions, and 
real aristocrats, who wore ruffled shirts, and even 
adventured "fair top-boots" in the "unfathom- 
able " mud of streets which knew neither sidewalks 
nor pavements. 

Lincoln came into the place bringing all his 
worldly belongings in a pair of saddle-bags. He 
found there John T. Stuart, his comrade in the 
Black Hawk campaign, engaged in the practice of 
the law. The two promptly arranged a partner- 


ship. But Stuart was immersed in that too com- 
mon mixture of law and politics in which the 
former jealous mistress is apt to take the tradi- 
tional revenge upon her half-hearted suitor. Such 
happened in this case; and these two partners, 
both making the same blunder of yielding imper- 
fect allegiance to their profession, paid the inevi- 
table penalty; they got perhaps work enough in 
mere point of quantity, but it was neither interest- 
ing nor lucrative. Such business, during the four 
years which he passed with Stuart, did not wean 
Lincoln from his natural fondness for matters 
political. At the same time he was a member of 
sundry literary gatherings and debating societies. 
Such of his work as has been preserved does not 
transcend the ordinary productions of a young 
man trying his wings in clumsy flights of oratory ; 
but he had the excuse that the thunderous de- 
clamatory style was then regarded in the West as 
the only true eloquence. He learned better, in 
course of time, and so did the West; and it was 
really good fortune that he passed through the 
hobbledehoy period in the presence of audiences 
whose taste was no better than his own. 

Occasionally amid the tedium of these high-flown 
commonplaces there opens a fissure through which 
the inner spirit of the man looks out for an instant. 
It is well known that Lincoln was politically am- 
bitious ; his friends knew it, his biographers have 
said it, he himself avowed it. Now and again, in 
these early days, when his horizon could hardly 


have ranged beyond the State Legislature and the 
lower house of Congress, he uttered some sentences 
which betrayed longings of a high moral grade, 
and indicated that office and power were already 
regarded by him as the opportunities for great 
actions. Strenuous as ought to be the objection 
to that tone in speaking of Lincohi which seems 
to proceed from beneath the sounding-board of the 
pulpit, and which uses him as a Sunday-school 
figure to edify a piously admiring world, yet it 
certainly seems a plain fact that his day-dreams at 
this period foreshadowed the acts of his later years, 
and that what he pleased himself with imagining 
was not the acquirement of official position but the 
achievement of some great benefit for mankind. 
He did not, of course, expect to do this as a phil- 
anthropist; for he understood himself sufficiently 
to know that his road lay in the public service. 
Accordingly he talks not as Clarkson or Wilber- 
force, but as a public man, of "emancipating 
slaves," of eliminating slavery and drunkenness 
from the land; at the same time he speaks thus 
not as a politician shrewdly anticipating the com- 
ing popular impulse, but as one desiring to stir 
that impulse. When he said, in his manifesto in 
1832, that he had "no other ambition so great as 
that of being truly esteemed by his fellow-men," 
he uttered words which in the mouths of most poli- 
ticians have the irritating effect of the dreariest and 
cheapest of platitudes; but he obviously uttered 
them with the sincerity of a deep inward ambition, 


that kind of an ambition which is often kept sacred 
from one's nearest intimates. Many side glimpses 
show him in this light, and it seems to be the gen- 
uine and uncolored one. 

In 1838 Lincoln was again elected a member of 
the lower house of the legislature, and many are 
the amusing stories told of the canvass. It was in 
this year that he made sudden onslaught on the 
demagogue Dick Taylor, and, opening with a sud- 
den jerk the artful colonel's waistcoat, displayed a 
glittering wealth of jewelry hidden temporarily 
beneath it. There is also the tale of his friend 
Baker haranguing a crowd in the store beneath 
Lincoln ' s office . The audience differed with Baker, 
and was about to punish him severely for the differ- 
ence, when Lincoln dangled down through a trap- 
door in the ceiling, intimated his intention to share 
in the fight if there was to be one, and brought 
the audience to a more pacific frame of mind. 
Such amenities of political debate at least tested 
some of the qualities of the individual. The Whig 
party made him their candidate for the speakership 
and he came within one vote of being elected.^ 
He was again a member of the Finance Committee ; 
but financiering by those wise law-givers was no 
longer so lightsome and exuberant a task as it had 
been. The hour of reckoning had come; and the 
business proved to be chiefly a series of humiliat- 
ing and futile efforts to undo the follies of the 

^ N. and H., i. 160; Holland, 74; Lamon, 212; but see Hern- 
don, 193. 


preceding two and a haH years. Lincoln shared 
in this disagreeable labor, as he had shared in the 
mania which had made it necessary. He admitted 
that he was "no financier," and gave evidence of 
the fact by submitting a bill which did not deserve 
to be passed, and was not. It can, however, be 
said for him that he never favored repudiation, as 
some of his comrades did. 

In 1840 ^ Lincoln was again elected, again was 
the nominee of the Whig party for the speakership, 
and again was beaten by Ewing, the Democratic 
candidate, who mustered 46 votes against 36 for 
Lincoln. This legislature held only one session, 
and apparently Holland's statement, that "no im- 
portant business of general interest was trans- 
acted," is a fair summary. Lincoln did only one 
memorable thing, and that unfortunately was dis- 
creditable. In a close and exciting contest, he, 
with two other Whigs, jumped out of the window 
in order to break a quorum. It is gratifying to 
hear from the chronicler of the event, who was one 
of the parties concerned, that " Mr. Lincoln always 
regretted that he entered into that arrangement, as 
he deprecated everything that savored of the revo- 
lutionary." ^ 

The year 1840 was made lively throughout the 

1 For the story of The Skinning of Thomas, belonging to this 
campaign, see Hemdon, 197 ; Lamon, 231 ; and for the Radford 
story, see N. and H., i. 172 ; Lamon, 230. 

2 Lamon, 216, 217. N. and H., i. 162, speak of " a number " of 
the members, among ■whom Lincoln was " prominent," making 
this exit ; but there seem to have been only two besides him. 


country by the spirited and rollicking campaign 
which the Whigs made on behalf of General Har- 
rison. In that famous struggle for "Tippecanoe 
and Tyler too," the log cabin, hard cider, and the 
'coon skin were the popular emblems which seemed 
to lend picturesqueness and enthusiasm and a kind 
of Western spirit to the electioneering everywhere 
in the land. In Illinois Lincoln was a candidate 
on the Whig electoral ticket, and threw himself 
with great zeal into the congenial task of "stump- 
ing " the State. Douglas was doing the same duty 
on the other side, and the two had many encoun- 
ters. Of Lincoln's speeches only one has been pre- 
served,^ and it leads to the conclusion that nothing 
of value was lost when the others perished. The 
effusion was in the worst style of the effervescent 
and exuberant school of that region and generation. 
Nevertheless, it may have had the greatest merit 
which oratory can possess, in being perfectly 
adapted to the audience to which it was addressed. 
But rhetoric could not carry Illinois for the Whigs ; 
the Democrats cast the vote of the State. 

1 N. and H., i. 173-117. 


Collaterally with law and politics, Lincoln 
was at this time engaged with that almost grotesque 
courtship which led to his marriage. The story is 
a long and strange one ; in its best gloss it is not 
agreeable, and in its worst version it is exceed- 
ingly disagreeable. In any form it is inexplica- 
ble, save so far as the apparent fact that his mind 
was somewhat disordered can be taken as an ex- 
planation. In 1839 Miss Mary Todd, who had 
been born in Lexington, Kentucky, December 13, 
1818, came to Springfield to stay with her sister, 
Mrs. Ninian W. Edwards. The Western bio- 
graphers describe her as "gifted with rare talents," 
as "high-bred, proud, brilliant, witty," as "aris- 
tocratic " and "accomplished," and as coming from 
a "long and distinguished ancestral line." Later 
in her career critics with more exacting standards 
gave other descriptions. There is, however, no 
doubt that in point of social position and acquire- 
ments she stood at this time much above Lincoln. 

Upon Lincoln's part it was a peculiar wooing, a 
series of morbid misgivings as to the force of his 
afPection, of alternate ardor and coldness, advances 


and withdrawals, and every variety of strange lan- 
guage and freakish behavior. In the course of it, 
oddly enough, his omnipresent competitor, Doug- 
las, crossed his path, his rival in love as well as in 
politics, and ultimately outstripped by him in each 
alike. After many months of this queer xmcertain 
zigzag progress, it was arranged that the marriage 
should take place on January 1, 1841. At the 
appointed hour the company gathered, the supper 
was set out, and the bride, "bedecked in veil and 
silken gown, and nervously toying with the flowers 
in her hair," according to the graphic description 
of Mr. Herndon, sat in her sister's house awaiting 
the coming of her lover. She waited, but he came 
not, and soon his friends were searching the town 
for him. Towards morning they found him. 
Some said that he was insane ; if he was not, he 
was at least suffering from such a terrible access 
of his constitutional gloom that for some time to 
come it was considered necessary to watch him 
closely. His friend Speed took him away upon a 
long visit to Kentucky, from which he returned in 
a much improved mental condition, but soon again 
came under the influence of Miss Todd's attrac- 

The memory of the absurd result of the recent 
effort at marriage naturally led to the avoidance of 
publicity concerning the second undertaking. So 
nothing was said till the last moment; then the 
license was procured, a few friends were hastily 
notified, and the ceremony was performed, all 


within a few hours, on November 4, 1842. A 
courtship marked by so many singularities was in- 
evitably prolific of gossip; and by all this tittle- 
tattle, in which it is absolutely impossible to sepa- 
rate probably a little truth from much fiction, the 
bride suffered more than the groom. Among 
other things it was asserted that Lincoln at last 
came to the altar most reluctantly. One says that 
he was "pale and trembling, as if being driven to 
slaughter; " another relates that the little son of a 
friend, noticing that his toilet had been more care- 
fully made than usual, asked him where he was 
going, and that he gloomily responded : " To hell, 
I suppose." Probably enough, however, these 
anecdotes are apocryphal; for why the proud and 
high - tempered Miss Todd should have held so 
fast to an unwilling lover, who had behaved so 
strangely and seemed to offer her so little, is a 
conundrum which has been answered by no better 
explanation than the very lame one, that she fore- 
saw his future distinction. It was her misfortune 
that she failed to make herself popular, so that no 
one has cared in how disagreeable or foolish a 
position any story places her. She was charged 
with having a sharp tongue, a sarcastic wit, and a 
shrewish temper, over which perilous traits she 
had no control. It is related that her sister, Mrs. 
Edwards, opposed the match, from a belief that 
the two were utterly uncongenial, and later on this 
came to be the accepted belief of the people at 
large. That Mrs. Lincoln often severely harassed 


her husband always has been, and always will be 
believed. One would gladly leave the whole topic 
veiled in that privacy which ought always to be 
accorded to domestic relations which are supposed 
to be only imperfectly happy ; but his countrymen 
have not shown any such respect to Mr. Lincoln, 
and it no longer is possible wholly to omit mention 
of a matter about which so much has been said and 
written. Moreover, it has usually been supposed 
that the influence of Mrs. Lincoln upon her hus- 
band was unceasing and powerful, and that her 
moods and her words constituted a very important 
element in his life.^ 

Another disagreeable incident of this period 
was the quarrel with James A. Shields. In the 
summer of 1842 sundry coarse assaults upon 

^ Lamon, pp. 238-252, tells the story of Lincoln's marriage at 
great length, sparing nothing ; he liberally sets forth the gossip 
and the stories ; he quotes the statements of witnesses who knew 
both parties at the time, and he gives in full much correspondence. 
The spirit and the letter of his aecoimt find substantial corrobora- 
tion in the narrative of Herndon, pp. 206-231. So much original 
material and evidence of acquaintances have been gathered by 
these two writers, and their own opportunities of knowing the 
truth were so good, that one seems not at liberty to reject the 
substantial correctness of their version. Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, 
vol. i. ch. 11, give a narrative for the most part in their own 
language. Their attempt throughout to mitigate all that is dis- 
agreeable is so obvious, not only in substance but in the turn of 
every phrase, that it is impossible to accept their chapter as a 
picture either free from obscurity or true in color, glad as one 
might be to do so. Arnold, pp. 68, 72, and Holland, p. 90, simply 
mention the marriage, and other biographers would have done 
well to imitate this forbearance ; but too much has been said to 
leave this course now open. 


Shields, attributed in great part, or wholly, to the 
so-called trenchant and witty pen of Miss Todd, 
appeared in the Springfield "Journal." Lincoln 
accepted the responsibility for them, received and 
reluctantly accepted a challenge, and selected 
broadswords as the weapons! "Friends," how- 
ever, brought about an "explanation," and the 
conflict was avoided. But ink flowed in place of 
blood, and the newspapers were filled with a mass 
of silly, grandiloquent, blustering, insolent, and 
altogether pitiable stuff. All the parties con- 
cerned were placed in a most humiliating light, 
and it is gratifying to hear that Lincoln had at 
least the good feeling to be heartily ashamed of 
the affair, so that he "always seemed willing to 
forget "it. But every veil which he ever sought to 
throw over anything concerning himself has had 
the effect of an irresistible provocation to drag the 
subject into the strongest glare of publicity. ^ 
All the while, amid so many distractions, Lin- 

1 It is fair to say that my view of this " duel ' ' is not that of 
other ■writers. Lamon, p. 260, says that "the scene is one of 
transcendent interest." Hemdon, p. 260, calls it a "serio-comic 
affair." Holland, pp. 87-89, gives a brief, deprecatory account 
of what he calls "certainly a boyish affair." Arnold, pp. 69- 
72, treats it simply enough, but puts the whole load of the ridi- 
cule upon Shields. Nicolay and Hay, vol. i. ch. 12, deal with it 
gravely, and in the same way in which, in the preceding chapter, 
they deal with the marriage ; that is to say, they eschew the pro- 
duction of original documents and, by their own gloss, make a 
good story for Lincoln and a very bad one for Shields ; they speak 
lightly of the " ludicrousness " of the affair. To my mind the 
opinion which Lincoln himself held is far more correct than that 
expressed by any of his biographers. 


coin was seeking a livelihood at the bar. On 
April 14, 1841, a good step was taken by dissolv- 
ing the partnership with Stuart and the establish- 
ment of a new partnership with Stephen T. Logan, 
lately Judge of the Circuit Court of the United 
States, and whom Arnold calls "the head of the 
bar at the capital." This gentleman, though not 
averse to politics, was a close student, assiduous 
in his attention to business, and very accurate and 
methodical in his ways. Thus he furnished a 
shining example of precisely the qualities which 
Lincoln had most need to cultivate, and his in- 
fluence upon Lincoln was marked and beneficial. 
They continued together until September 20, 1843, 
when they separated, and on the same day Lin- 
coln, heretofore a junior, became the senior in a 
new partnership with William H. Herndon. This 
firm was never formally dissolved up to the day of 
Lincoln's death. 

When Lincoln was admitted to the bar the prac- 
tice of the law was in a very crude condition in 
Illinois. General principles gathered from a few 
text-books formed the simple basis upon which 
lawyers tried cases and framed arguments in im- 
provised court-rooms. But the advance was rapid 
and carried Lincoln forward with it. The raw 
material, if the phrase may be pardoned, was ex- 
cellent; there were many men in the State who 
united a natural aptitude for the profession with 
high ability, ambition and a progressive spirit. 
Lincoln was brought in contact with them all, 


whether they rode his circuit or not, because the 
federal courts were held only in Springfield. 
Among them were Stephen A. Douglas, Lyman 
Trumbull, afterward for a long while chairman of 
the Judiciary Committee of the national Senate, 
David Davis, afterward a senator, and an associate 
justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; 
O. H. Browning, Ninian W. Edwards, Edward 
D. Baker, Justin Butterfield, Judge Logan, and 
more. Precisely what position Lincoln occupied 
among these men it is difficult to say with accu- 
racy, because it is impossible to know just how 
much of the praise which has been bestowed upon 
him is the language of eulogy or of the brotherly 
courtesy of the bar, and how much is a discriminat- 
ing valuation of his qualities. That in the fore- 
going list there were better and greater lawyers 
than he is unquestionable; that he was primarily 
a politician and only secondarily a lawyer is equally 
beyond denial. He has been described also as "a 
case lawyer," that is to say, a lawyer who studies 
each case as it comes to him simply by and for it- 
self, a method which makes the practitioner rather 
than the jurist. That Lincoln was ever learned 
in the science is hardly pretended. In fact it was 
not possible that the divided allegiance which he 
gave to his profession for a score of years could 
have achieved such a result.^ But it is said, and 

^ Serious practice only began with him when he formed his 
partnership with Judge Logan in 1841 ; in 1860 his practice came 
to an end ; in the interval he was for two years a member of Con- 


the well-known manner of his mental operations 
makes it easy to believe, that his arguments had a 
marvelous simplicity and clearness, alike in thought 
and in expression. To these traits they owed their 
great force; and a legal argument can have no 
higher traits; fine-drawn subtlety is undeniably 
an inferior quality. Noteworthy above all else 
was his extraordinary capacity for statement; all 
agTee that his statement of his case and his presen- 
tation of the facts and the evidence were so plain 
and fair as to be far more convincing than the ar- 
gument which was built upon them. Again it may 
be said that the power to state in this manner is 
as high in the order of intellectual achievement as 
anything within forensic possibilities. 

As an advocate Lincoln seems to have ranked 
better than he did in the discussion of pure points 
of law. When he warmed to his work his power 
over the emotions of a jury was very great. A 
less dignified but not less valuable capacity lay in 
his humor and his store of illustrative anecdotes. 
But the one trait, which all agree in attributing to 
him and which above all others will redoimd to his 
honor, at least in the mind of the layman, is, that 
he was only efficient when his client was in the 
right, and that he made but indifferent work in a 
wrong cause. He was preeminently the honest 
lawyer, the counsel fitted to serve the litigant who 
was justly entitled to win. His power of lucid 
statement was of little service when the real facts 
were against him ; and his eloquence seemed para- 


lyzed when he did not believe thoroughly that his 
client had a just cause. He generally refused to 
take cases unless he could see that as matter of 
genuine right he ought to win them. People who 
consulted him were at times bluntly advised to 
withdraw from an unjust or a hard-hearted conten- 
tion, or were bidden to seek other counsel. He 
could even go the length of leaving a case, while 
actually conducting it, if he became satisfied of 
unfairness on the part of his client; and when a 
coadjutor won a case from which he had withdrawn 
in transitu, so to speak, he refused to accept any 
portion of the fee. Such habits may not meet 
with the same measure of commendation from pro- 
fessional men^ which they will command on the 
part of others; but those who are not members of 
this ingenious profession, contemning the fine logic 
which they fail to overcome, stubbornly insist 
upon admiring the lawyer who refuses to subordi- 
nate right to law. In this respect Lincoln ac- 
cepted the ideals of laymen rather than the doc- 
trines of his profession. 2 

In the presidential campaign of 1844, in which 
Henry Clay was the candidate of the Whig party, 

1 A story is told by Lamon, p. 321, wliich puts Lincoln in a 
position absolutely indefensible by any sound reasoning. 

2 For accounts of Lincoln at the bar, as also for many illustra- 
tive and entertaining anecdotes to which the plan of this volume 
does not permit space to be given, see Arnold, pp. 55-59, 66, 73, 
84-91 ; HoUand, 72, 73, 76-83, 89 ; Lamon, pp. 223-225, ch. xiii. 
311-332 ; N. and H., 1, 167-171, 213-216, ch. xvii. 298-309 ; Hera- 
don, 182-184, 186, 264-266, 306 n., 307-309, 312-319, 323-331, 
ch. xi. 332-360. 


Lincoln was nominated upon the Whig electoral 
ticket. He was an ardent admirer of Clay and he 
threw himself into this contest with great zeal. 
Oblivious of courts and clients, he devoted himself 
to "stumping" Illinois and a part of Indiana. 
When Illinois sent nine Democratic electors to 
vote for James K. Polk, his disappointment was 
bitter. All the members of the defeated party 
had a peculiar sense of personal chagrin upon this 
occasion, and Lincoln felt it even more than oth- 
ers. It is said that two years later a visit to Ash- 
land resulted in a disillusionment, and that his 
idol then came down from its pedestal, or at least 
the pedestal was made much lower. ^ 

In March, 1843, Lincoln had hopes that the 
Whigs would nominate him as their candidate for 
the national House of Representatives. In the 
canvass he developed some strength, but not quite 
enough, and the result was somewhat ludicrous, 
for Sangamon County made him a delegate to the 
nominating convention with instructions to vote 
for one of his own competitors, Colonel Edward 
D. Baker, the gaUant gentleman and briUiant 
orator who fell at Ball's Bluff. The prize was 
finally carried off by Colonel John J. Hardin, who 
afterward died at Buena Vista. By a change of 
election periods the next convention was held in 
1844, and this time Lincoln publicly declined to 
make a contest for the nomination against Colonel 
Baker, who accordingly received it and was 

^ Holland, 95; hut per contra see Herndon, 271. 


elected. It has been said that an agreement was 
made between Hardin, Baker, Lincoln, and Judge 
Logan, whereby each should be allowed one term 
in Congress, without competition on the part of 
any of the others; but the story does not seem 
altogether trustworthy, nor wholly corroborated 
by the facts. Possibly there may have been a 
courteous understanding between them. It has, 
however, been spoken of as a very reprehensible 
bargain, and Lincoln has been zealously defended 
against the reproach of having entered into it. 
Why, if indeed it ever was made, it had this ob- 
jectionable complexion is a point in the inscruta- 
ble moralities of politics which is not plain to those 
uninitiated in these ethical mysteries. 

In the year 1846 Lincoln again renewed his 
pursuit of the coveted honor, as Holland very 
properly puts it. Nothing is more absurd than 
statements to the purport that he was "induced to 
accept " the nomination, statements which he him- 
self would have heard with honest laughter. Only 
three years ago^ he had frankly written to a 
friend : " Now, if you should hear any one say that 
Lincoln don't want to go to Congress, I wish you, 
as a personal friend of mine, would tell him you 
have reason to believe he is mistaken. The truth 
is I would [should] like to go very much." Now, 
the opportimity being at hand, he spared no pains 
to compass it. In spite of the alleged agreement 
Hardin made reconnoissances in the district, which 
1 March, 1843. 


Lincoln met witli counter-manifestations so vigor- 
ous that on February 26 Hardin withdrew, and on 
May 1 Lincoln was nominated. Against him the 
Democrats set Peter Cartwright, the famous itin- 
erant preacher of the Methodists, whose strenuous 
and popular eloquence had rung in the ears of 
every Western settler. Stalwart, aggressive, pos- 
sessing all the qualities adapted to win the good- 
will of such a constituency, the Apostle of the 
West was a dangerous antagonist. But Lincoln 
had political capacity in a rare degree. Foresight 
and insight, activity and the power to organize and 
to direct, were his. Li this campaign his eye was 
upon every one; individuals, newspaper editors, 
political clubs, got their inspiration and their guid- 
ance from him.^ Such thoroughness deserved and 
achieved an extraordinary success; and at the 
polls, in August, the district gave him a majority 
of 1,511. In the latest presidential campaign it 
had given Clay a majority of 914 ; and two years 
later it gave Taylor a majority of 1,501. Sanga- 
mon County gave Lincoln a majority of 690, the 
largest given to any candidate from 1836 to 1850, 
inclusive. Moreover, Lincoln was the only Whig 
who secured a place in the Illinois delegation. 

Though elected in the summer of 1846, it was 
not until December 6, 1847, that the Thirtieth 
Congress began its first session. Robert C. Win- 
throp was chosen Speaker of the House, by 110 

^ By way of example of his methods, see letter to Hemdon, 
June 22, 1848, Lamon, 299. 


votes out of 218. The change in the political 
condition was marked ; in the previous House the 
Democrats had numbered 142 and the Whigs only 
75 ; in this House the Whigs were 116, the Demo- 
crats 108. Among the members were John 
Quincy Adams, Andrew Johnson, Alexander H. 
Stephens, Howell Cobb, David Wilmot, Jacob 
Collamer, Robert Toombs, with many more scarcely 
less familiar names. The Mexican War was draw- 
ing towards its close, ^ and most of the talking 
in Congress had relation to it. The whole Whig 
party denounced it at the time, and the nation has 
been more than half ashamed of it ever since. By 
adroit manoeuvres Polk had forced the fight upon 
a weak and reluctant nation, and had made to his 
own people false statements as to both the facts 
and the merits of the quarrel. The rebuke which 
they had now administered, by changing the large 
Democratic majority into a minority, "deserves," 
says von Hoist, "to be counted among the most 
meritorious proofs of the sound and honorable feel- 
ing of the American nation." ^ But while the ad- 
ministration had thus smirched the inception and 
the whole character of the war with meanness and 

1 The treaty of peace, subject to some amendments, was ratified 
by the Senate March 10, 1848, and officially promulgated on 
July 4. 

2 Von Hoist, Const. Hist, of U. S., iii. 336. All historians are 
pretty well agreed upon the relation of the Polk administration to 
the Mexican war. But the story has never been so clearly and 
admirably traced by auy other as by von Hoist in the third vol- 
ume of his history. 


dishonor, the generals and the army were winning 
abundant glory for the national arms. Good 
strategy achieved a series of brilliant victories, 
and fortunately for the Whigs General Taylor 
and General Scott, together with a large propor- 
tion of the most distinguished regimental officers, 
were of their party. This aided them essentially 
in their policy, which was, to denounce the enter- 
ing into the war but to vote all necessary supplies 
for its vigorous prosecution. 

Into this scheme of his party Lincoln entered 
with hearty concurrence. A week after the House 
met he closed a letter to his partner with the re- 
mark : " As you are all so anxious for me to dis- 
tinguish myself, I have concluded to do so before 
long," and what he said humorously he probably 
meant seriously. Accordingly he soon afterward ^ 
introduced a series of resolutions, which, under 
the nickname of "The Spot Eesolutions," attracted 
some attention. Quoting in his preamble sundry 
paragraphs of the President's Message of May 11, 
1846, to the purport that Mexico had "invaded 
our territory,^' and had "shed the blood of our 
citizens on our own soil,^' he then requested the 
President to state "^Ae spot " where these and other 
alleged occurrences had taken place. His first 
"little speech "was on "a post-office question of 
no general interest; " and he found himself "about 
as badly scared and no worse " than when he spoke 
in court. So a little later, January 12, 1848, he 
1 Dec. 22, 1847. 


ventured to call up his resolutions and to make 
an elaborate speech upon them.^ It was not a very 
great or remarkable speech, but it was a good one, 
and not conceived in the fervid and florid style 
which defaced his youthful efforts ; he spoke sensi- 
bly, clearly, and with precision of thought; he 
sought his strength in the facts, and went in 
straight pursuit of the truth; his best intellectual 
qualities were plainly visible. The resolutions 
were not acted upon, and doubtless their actual 
passage had never been expected; but they were a 
good shot well placed ; and they were sufficiently 
noteworthy to save Lincoln from being left among 
the herd of the nobodies of the House. 

In view of his future career, but for no other 
reason, a brief paragraph is worth quoting. He 
says : — 

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and hav- 
ing the power, have the right to rise up and shake 
off the existing government, and form a new one 
that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a 
most sacred right, — a right which, we hope and 
believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right 
confined to cases in which the whole people of 
an existing government may choose to exercise 
it. Any portion of such people, that can, may 
revolutionize, and make their ow7i of so much of 
the territory as they inhabit." This doctrine, so 
comfortably applied to Texas in 1848, seemed un- 
suitable for the Confederate States in 1861. But 

^ Printed by Lamon, p. 282. See also Herndon, 277. 


possibly the point lay in the words, "having the 
power," and "can," for the Texans "had the 
power" and "could," and the South had it not 
and could not; and so Lincoln's practical proviso 
saved his theoretical consistency ; though he must 
still have explained how either Texas or the South 
could know whether they "had the power," and 
"could," except by trial. 

Lincoln's course concerning the war and the 
administration did not please his constituents. 
With most of the Whigs he voted for Ashmun's 
amendment, which declared that the war had been 
"unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced 
by the President." But soon he heard that the 
people in Springfield were offended at a step which 
might weaken the administration in time of stress; 
and even if the President had transcended the 
Constitution, they preferred to deny rather than 
to admit the fact. When Douglas afterward 
charged Lincoln with lack of patriotism, Lincoln 
replied that he had not chosen to "skulk," and, 
feeling obliged to vote, he had voted for "the 
truth" rather than for "a lie."^ He remarked 
also that he, with the Whigs generally, always 
voted for the supply bills. He took and main- 
tained his position with entire manliness and hon- 
esty, and stated his principles with perfect clear- 
ness, neither shading nor abating nor coloring by 
any conciliatory or politic phrase. It was a ques- 

1 Hemdon, 281 ; see Letters g^Ten in full by Lamon, 291, 293, 
295 (at 296) ; N. and H., i. 274, 


tion of conscience, and he met it point-blank. 
Many of his critics remained dissatisfied, and it is 
believed that his course cost the next Whig candi- 
date in the district votes which he could not afford 
to lose. It is true that another paid this penalty, 
yet Lincoln himseK would have liked well to take 
his chance as the candidate. To those "who desire 
that I should be reelected," he wrote to Herndon, 
"I can say, as Mr. Clay said of the annexation of 
Texas, that ^personally I would not object. ' . . . 
If it should so happen that nohody else wishes to 
be elected, I could not refuse the people the right 
of sending me again. But to enter myseK as a 
competitor of others, or to authorize any one so to 
enter me, is what my word and honor forbid." It 
did so happen that Judge Logan, whose turn it 
seemed to be, wished the nomination and received 
it. He was, however, defeated, and probably paid 
the price of Lincoln's scrupulous honesty. 

In the canvassing of the spring of 1848 Lincoln 
was an ardent advocate for the nomination of Gen- 
eral Taylor as the Whig candidate for the presi- 
dency; for he appreciated how much greater was 
the strength of the military hero, with all that 
could be said against him, than was that of Mr. 
Clay, whose destiny was so disappointingly non- 
presidential. When the nomination went accord- 
ing to his wishes, he entered into the campaign 
with as much zeal as his congressional duties would 
permit, — indeed, with somewhat an excess of zeal, 
for he delivered on the floor of the House an 


harangue in favor of the general which was little 
else than a stump speech, admirably adapted for a 
backwoods audience, but grossly out of place where 
it was spoken. He closed it with an assault on 
General Cass, as a military man, which was de- 
signed to be humorous, and has, therefore, been 
quoted with unfortunate frequency. So soon as 
Congress adjourned he was able to seek a more 
legitimate arena in New England, whither he went 
at once and delivered many speeches, none of 
which have been preserved. 

Lincoln's position upon the slavery question in 
this Congress was that of moderate hostility. In 
the preceding Congress, the Twenty-ninth, the 
famous Wilmot Proviso, designed to exclude slav- 
ery from any territory which the United States 
should acquire from Mexico, had passed the House 
and had been killed in the Senate. In the Thirti- 
eth Congress efforts to the same end were renewed 
in various forms, always with Lincoln's favor. 
He once said that he had voted for the principle 
of the Wilmot Proviso "about forty-two times," 
which, if not an accurate mathematical computa- 
tion, was a vivid expression of his stanch adher- 
ence to the doctrine. At the second session Mr. 
Lincoln voted against a bill to prohibit the slave 
trade in the District of Columbia, because he did 
not approve its form ; and then introduced another 
bill, which he himself had drawn. This prohib- 
ited the bringing slaves into the District, except 
as household servants by government officials who 


were citizens of slave States; it also prohibited 
selling them to be taken away from the District ; 
children born of slave mothers after January 1, 
1850, were to be subject to temporary apprentice- 
ship and finally to be made free ; owners of slaves 
might collect from the government their full cash 
value as the price of their freedom ; fugitive slaves 
escaping into Washington and Georgetown were 
to be returned ; finally the measure was to be sub- 
mitted to popular vote in the District. This was 
by no means a measure of abolitionist coloring, 
although Lincoln obtained for it the support of 
Joshua R. Giddings, who believed it "as good a 
bill as we could get at this time," and was "will- 
ing to pay for slaves in order to save them from 
the Southern market." It recognized the right of 
property in slaves, which the Abolitionists denied; 
also it might conceivably be practicable, a charac- 
teristic which rarely marked the measures of the 
Abolitionists, who professed to be pure moralists 
rather than practical politicians. From this first 
move to the latest which he made in this great 
business, Lincoln never once broke connection 
with practicability. On this occasion he had ac- 
tually succeeded in obtaining from Mr. Seaton, 
editor of the "National Intelligencer " and mayor 
of Washington, a promise of support, which gave 
him a little prospect of success. Later, however, 
the Southern Congressmen drew this influential 
gentleman to their side, and thereby rendered the 
passage of the bill impossible ; at the close of the 


session it lay with the other corpses in that grave 
called "the table." 

When his term of service in Congress was over 
Lincoln sought, but failed to obtain, the position 
of Commissioner of the General Lands Office. He 
was offered the governorship of the newly organ- 
ized Territory of Oregon ; but this, controlled by 
the sensible advice of his wife, he fortunately de- 


The Ordinance of 1787 established that slavery- 
should never exist in any part of that vast north- 
western territory which had then lately been ceded 
by sundry States to the Confederation. This Or- 
dinance could not be construed otherwise than as 
an integral part of the transaction of cession, and 
was forever unalterable, because it represented in 
a certain way a part of the consideration in a con- 
tract, and was also in the nature of a declaration 
of trust undertaken by the Congress of the Con- 
federation with the granting States. The article 
"was agreed to without opposition;" but almost 
contemporaneously, in the sessions of that conven- 
tion which framed the Constitution, debate waxed 
hot upon the topic which was then seen to present 
grave obstacles to union. It was true that many 
of the wisest Southerners of that generation re- 
garded the institution as a menacing misfortune; 
they however could not ignore the fact that it was 
a "misfortune" of that peculiar kind which was 
endured with much complacency by those afflicted 
by it; and it was equally certain that the great 
body of slave-owners would resent any effort to 


relieve them of their burden. Hence there were 
placed in the Constitution provisions in behalf of 
slavery which involved an admission that the insti- 
tution needed protection, and should receive it. 
The idea of protection implied the existence of 
hostility either of men or of circumstances, or of 
both. Thus by the Ordinance and the Constitu- 
tion, taken together, there was already indirectly 
recognized an antagonism between the institutions, 
interests, and opinions of the South and those of 
the North. 

Slowly this feeling of opposition grew. The 
first definite mark of the growth was the struggle 
over the admission of Missouri, in 1820. This 
was settled by the famous "Compromise," embod- 
ied in the Act of March 6, 1820, whereby the 
people of the Territory of Missouri were allowed 
to frame a State government, with no restriction 
against slavery; but a clause also enacted that 
slavery should never be permitted in any part of 
the remainder of the public territory lying north 
of the parallel of 36° 30'. By its efficiency dur- 
ing thirty -four years of constantly increasing strain 
this legislation was proved to be a remarkable po- 
litical achievement; and as the people saw it per- 
form so long and so well a service so vital they 
came to regard it as only less sacred than the 
Constitution itself. Even Douglas, who after- 
ward led in repealing it, declared that it had an 
"origin akin to the Constitution," and that it 
was "canonized in the hearts of the American 


people as a sacred thing." Yet during the long 
quietude which it brought, each section kept a 
jealous eye upon the other; and especially was the 
scrutiny of the South uneasy, for she saw ever more 
and more plainly the disturbing truth that her in- 
stitution needed protection. Being in derogation 
of natural right, it was peculiarly dependent upon 
artificial sustention; the South would not express 
the condition in this language, but acted upon the 
idea none the less. It was true that the North 
was not aggressive towards slavery, but was ob- 
serving it with much laxity and indifference; that 
the crusading spirit was sleeping soundly, and 
even the proselyting temper was feeble. But this 
state of Northern feeling could not relieve the 
South from the harassing consciousness that slav- 
ery needed not only toleration, but positive ^jt-o- 
tection at the hands of a population whose institu- 
tions were naturally antagonistic to the slave idea. 
This being the case, she must be alarmed at seeing 
that population steadily outstripping her own in 
numbers and wealth.^ Since she could not possi- 
bly even hold this disproportion stationary, her 
best resource seemed to be to endeavor to keep it 
practically harmless by maintaining a balance of 
power in the government. Thus it became un- 
written law that slave States and free States must 
be equal in number, so that the South could not 

^ For a striking comparison of the condition of the South with 
that of the North in 1850, see von Hoist's Const. Hist, of U. S., 
V. 567-586. 


be outvoted in the Senate. This system was prac- 
ticable for a while, yet not a very long while ; for 
the North was filling up that great northwestern 
region, which was eternally dedicated to freedom, 
and full-grown communities could not forever be 
kept outside the pale of statehood. On the other 
hand, apart from any question of numbers, the 
South could make no counter-expansion, because 
she lay against a foreign country. After a time, 
however, Texas opportunely rebelled against Mex- 
ico, and then the opportunity for removing this 
obstruction was too obvious and too tempting to 
be lost. A brief period of so-called independence 
on the part of Texas was followed by the annexa- 
tion of her territory to the United States,^ with 
the proviso that from her great area might in the 
future be cut off still four other States. Slavery 
had been abolished in all Mexican territory, and 
Texas had been properly a "free" country; but 
in becoming a part of the United States she be- 
came also a slave State. 

Mexico had declared that annexation of Texas 
would constitute a casus belli, yet she was wisely 
laggard in beginning vindictive hostilities against 
a power which could so easily whip her, and she 
probably never would have done so had the United 
States rested content with an honest boundary 
line. But this President Polk would not do, and 
by theft and falsehood he at last fairly drove the 
Mexicans into a war, in which they were so exces- 

^ December, 1845. 


sively beaten that the administration found itself 
able to gather more plunder than it had expected. 
By the treaty of peace the United States not only 
extended unjustly the southwestern boundary of 
Texas, but also got New Mexico and California. 
To forward this result, Polk had asked the House 
to place $2,000,000 at his disposal. Thereupon, 
as an amendment to the bill granting this sum, 
Wilmot introduced his famous proviso, prohibiting 
slavery in any part of the territory to be acquired. 
Repeatedly and in various shapes was the substance 
of this proviso voted upon, but always it was voted 
down. Though New Mexico had come out from 
under the rule of despised Mexico as "free" coun- 
try, a contrary destiny was marked out for it in its 
American character. A plausible suggestion was 
made to extend the sacred line of the Missouri 
Compromise westward to the Pacific Ocean; and 
very little of the new country lay north of that 

By all these transactions the South seemed to 
be scoring many telling points in its game. They 
were definite points, which all could see and esti- 
mate ; yet a price, which was considerable, though 
less definite, less easy to see and to estimate, had 
in fact been paid for them; for the antagonism of 
the rich and teeming North to the Southern institu- 
tion and to the Southern policy for protecting it 
had been spread and intensified to a degree which 
involved a menace fully offsetting the Southern 
territorial gain. One of the indications of this 


state of feeling was tlie organization of the "Free 
Soil " party. 

Almost simultaneously with this important ad- 
vancement of the Southern policy there occurred 
an event, operative upon the other side, which cer- 
tainly no statesman could have foreseen. Gold 
was discovered in California, and in a few months 
a torrent of immigrants poured over the land. 
The establishment of an efficient government be- 
came a pressing need. In Congress they debated 
the matter hotly ; the friends of the Wilmot pro- 
viso met in bitter conflict the advocates of the 
westward extension of the line of 36° 30'. 
Neither side could prevail, and amid intense ex- 
citement the Thirtieth Congress expired. For the 
politicians this was well enough, but for the Cali- 
f ornians organization was such an instant necessity 
that they now had to help themselves to it. So 
they promptly elected a Constitutional Convention, 
which assembled on September 1, 1849, and ad- 
journed on October 13. Though this body held 
fifteen delegates who were immigrants from slave 
States, yet it was unanimous in presenting a Con- 
stitution which prohibited slavery, and which was 
at once accepted by a popular vote of 12,066 yeas 
against 811 nays. 

Great then was the consternation of the South- 
ern leaders when Californian delegates appeared 
immediately upon the assembling of the Thirty- 
first Congress, and asked for admission beneath 
this unlooked-for "free" charter of statehood. 


The shock was aggravated by the fact that New 
Mexico, actually instigated thereto by the slave- 
holding President Taylor himself, was likely to 
follow close in the Calif ornian foot-tracks. The 
admission of Texas had for a moment disturbed 
the senatorial equilibrium between North and 
South, which, however, had quickly been restored 
by the admission of Wisconsin. But the South 
had nothing to offer to counterbalance California 
and New Mexico, which were being suddenly 
filched from her confident expectation. In this 
emergency those extremists in the South who off- 
set the Abolitionists at the North fell back upon 
the appalling threat of disunion, which could 
hardly be regarded as an idle extravagance of the 
"hotspurs," since it was substantially certain that 
the Senate would never admit California with her 
anti-slavery Constitution; and thus a real crisis 
seemed at hand. Other questions also were cast 
into the seething caldron. Texas, whose bounda- 
ries were as uncertain as the ethics of politicians, 
set up a claim which included nearly all New 
Mexico, and so would have settled the question 
of slavery for that region at least. Further, the 
South called for a Fugitive Slave Law sufficiently 
stringent to be serviceable. Also, in encountering 
the Wilmot proviso. Southern statesmen had as- 
serted the doctrine, far-reaching and subversive of 
established ideas and of enacted laws, that Con- 
gress could not constitutionally interfere with the 
property-rights of citizens of the United States 


in the Territories, and that slaves were property. 
Amid such a confused and violent hurly-burly the 
perplexed body of order-loving citizens were, with 
reason, seriously alarmed. 

To the great relief of these people and to the 
equal disgust of the extremist politicians Henry 
Clay, the "great compromiser," was now an- 
nounced to appear once more in the role which all 
felt that he alone could play. He came with much 
dramatic effect; an aged and broken man, he 
emerged from the retirement in which he seemed 
to have sought a brief rest before death should lay 
him low, and it was with an impressive air of sad- 
ness and of earnestness that he devoted the last 
remnants of his failing strength to save a country 
which he had served so long. His friends feared 
that he might not survive even a few months to 
reach the end of his patriotic task. On January 
29, 1850, he laid before the Senate his "compre- 
hensive scheme of adjustment." But it came not 
as oil upon the angry waters; every one was 
offended by one or another part of it, and at once 
there opened a war of debate which is among the 
most noteworthy and momentous in American his- 
tory. Great men who belonged to the past and 
great men who were to belong to the future shared 
in the exciting controversies, which were prolonged 
over a period of more than half a year. Clay was 
constantly on his feet, doing battle with a voice 
which gained rather than lost force from its pa- 
thetic feebleness. "I am here," he solemnly said, 


" expecting soon to go hence, and owing no respon- 
sibility but to my own conscience and to God." 
Jefferson Davis spoke for tlie extension westward 
of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific 
Ocean, with a proviso positively establishing slav- 
ery south of that line. Calhoun, from the edge of 
the grave, into which only a few weeks later he 
was to fall, once more faced his old adversaries. 
On March 4 he sat beside Mason, of Virginia, 
while that gentleman read for him to a hushed 
audience the speech which he himseK was too weak 
to deliver. Three days later Webster uttered that 
speech which made the seventh day of March 
almost as famous in the history of the United 
States as the Ides of the same month had been 
in that of Home. In the eyes of the anti-slavery 
men of New England the fall of Webster was 
hardly less momentous than the fall of CaBsar had 
appeared in the Eternal City. Seward also spoke 
a noteworthy speech, bringing upon himself infinite 
abuse by his bold phrase, a higher law than the 
Constitution. Salmon P. Chase followed upon 
the same side, in an exalted and prophetic strain. 
In that momentous session every man gave out 
what he felt to be his best, while anxious and ex- 
cited millions devoured every word which the news- 
papers reported to them. 

Clay had imprudently gathered the several mat- 
ters of his Compromise into one bill, which was 
soon sneeringly nicknamed "the Omnibus Bill." 
It was sorely harassed by amendments, and when 


at last, on July 31, the Omnibus reached the end 
of its journey, it contained only one passenger, 
viz. , a Territorial government for Utah. Its trip 
had apparently ended in utter failure. But a care- 
ful study of individual proclivities showed that not 
improbably those measures might be passed one by 
one which could not be passed in combination. In 
this hope, five several bills, being all the ejected 
contents of the Omnibus, were brought forward, 
and each in turn had the success which had been 
denied to them together. First: Texas received 
110,000,000, and for this price magnanimously 
relinquished her unfounded claim upon New Mex- 
ico. Second : California was admitted, as a free 
State. Third : New Mexico was organized as a Ter- 
ritory, with the proviso that when she should form 
a State constitution the slavery question should 
be determined by the people, and that during her 
Territorial existence the question of property in a 
slave should be left undisturbed by congressional 
action, to be determined by the Supreme Court 
of the United States. Fourth: A more efficient 
Fugitive Slave Law was passed. Fifth: Slave- 
trading in the District of Columbia was abolished. 
Such were the terms of an arrangement in which 
every man saw so much which he himself disliked 
that he felt sure that others must be satisfied. 
Each plumed himself on his liberality in his con- 
cessions nobly made in behalf of public harmony. 
"The broad basis," says von Hoist, "on which the 
compromise of 1850 rested, was the conviction of 


the great majority of the people, both North and 
South, that it was fair, reasonable, and patriotic 
to come to a friendly understanding." 

Thus in the midsummer of 1850 did the nation, 
with intense relief, see the imminent disaster of 
civil discord averted, — or was it only postponed? 
It was ominous that no men who were deeply in 
earnest in public affairs were sincerely satisfied. 
The South saw no gain which offset the destruction 
of the balance of power by the admission of Cali- 
fornia. Thinking men at the North were alarmed 
at the recognition of the principle of non-interven- 
tion by Congress concerning slavery in the Terri- 
tories, a principle which soon, under the seductive 
title of "popular sovereignty" in the Territories, 
threatened even that partial restriction heretofore 
given by the Missouri Compromise. Neither party 
felt sufficiently secure of the strength of its legal 
position to be altogether pleased at seeing the doc- 
trine of treating the slave in the Territories as 
"property " cast into the lottery of the Supreme 
Court. Lincoln recognized the futility of this 
whole arrangement and said truly that the slavery 
question could "never be successfully compro- 
mised." Yet he accepted the situation, with the 
purpose of making of it the best that was possible. 
The mass of the people, less far-sighted, were 
highly gratified at the passing of the great danger ; 
refused to recognize that a more temporary com- 
promise was never patched up to serve a turn ; and 
applauded it so zealously that in preparing for the 


presidential campaign of 1852 each party felt com- 
pelled to declare emphatically — what all wise 
politicians knew to be false — the "finality" of 
the great Compromise of 1850. Never, never 
more was there to be a revival of the slavery agita- 
tion ! Yet, at the same time, it was instinctively 
felt that the concord would cease at once if the 
nation should not give to the South a Democratic 
president ! In this campaign Lincoln made a few 
speeches in Illinois in favor of Scott; but Hern- 
don says that they were not very satisfactory 
efforts. Franklin Pierce was chosen, and slavery 
could have had no better man. 

This doctrine of non-intervention by Congress 
with slavery in the territories lay as the seed of 
mortal disease imbedded in the vitals of the great 
Compromise even at the hour of its birth. AU 
the bowlings of the political medicine-men in the 
halls of Congress and in the wigwams where the 
party platforms were manufactured, could not de- 
fer the inevitable dissolution. The rapid peopling 
of the Pacific coast already made it imperative to 
provide some sort of governmental organization for 
the sparsely inhabited regions lying between these 
new lands and the fringe of population near the 
Mississippi. Accordingly bills were introduced to 
establish as a Territory the region which was after- 
ward divided between Kansas and Nebraska; but 
at two successive sessions they failed to pass, more, 
as it seemed, from lack of interest than from any 
open hostility. In the course of debate it was ex- 


plained, and not contradicted, that slavery was not 
mentioned in the bills because the Missouri Com- 
promise controlled that matter. Yet it was well 
known that the Missouri Compromise was no 
longer a sure barrier; for one wing of the pro- 
slavery party asserted that it was unconstitutional 
on the ground that slaves, being property, could 
not be touched in the Territories by congressional 
enactments ; while another wing of the party pre- 
ferred the plausible cry of "popular sovereignty," 
than which no words coidd ring truer in American 
ears; and no one doubted that, in order to give 
that sovereignty fidl sway, they would at any con- 
venient moment vote to repeal even the "sacred" 
Compromise. It could not be denied that this 
was the better course, if it were practicable ; and 
accordingly, January 16, 1854, Senator Dixon of 
Kentucky offered an amendment to the pending 
Nebraska bill, which substantially embodied the 
repeal. In the Senate Douglas was chairman of 
the Committee on Territories, and was induced to 
cooperate.^ January 23, 1854, he introduced his 
famous "Kansas-Nebraska bill," establishing the 
two Territories and declaring the Missouri Com- 
promise "inoperative" therein. A later amend- 
ment declared the Compromise to be "inconsistent 
with the principle of non-intervention by Congress 
with slavery in the States and Territories, as re- 
cognized by the legislation of 1850," and therefore 

^ For a description of Douglas's state of mind, see N. and H., 
i. 345-351, quoting original authorities. 


"inoperative and void; it being the true intent and 
meaning of this Act not to legislate slavery into 
any Territory or State, nor to exclude it there- 
from, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free 
to form and regulate their domestic institutions in 
their own way, subject only to the Constitution." 
After a long and hard fight the bill was passed 
with this clause in it, which Benton well stigma- 
tized as a "stump speech injected into the belly of 
the bill." The insertion of the word State was of 
momentous significance. 

This repeal set the anti-slavery party all ablaze. 
Among the rest Lincoln was fired with strenuous 
indignation, and roused from the condition of 
apparent indifference to public affairs in which he 
had rested since the close of his term in Congress. 
Douglas, coming home in the autumn, was so dis- 
agreeably received by an angry audience in Chi- 
cago that he felt it imperative to rehabilitate his 
stricken popularity. This difficult task he essayed 
at the great gathering of the State Fair in October. 
But Lincoln was put forward to answer him, and 
was brilliantly successful in doing so, if the highly 
colored account of Mr. Herndon may be trusted. 
Immediately after Lincoln's close, Owen Love joy, 
the Abolitionist leader, announced "a meeting in 
the same place that evening of all the friends of 
freedom." The scheme was to induce Lincoln to 
address them, and thus publicly to commit him as 
of their faith. But the astute Herndon, though 
himself an Abolitionist, felt that for Lincoln per- 


sonally this was by no means desirable. So he 
hastened to Lincoki and strenuously said: "Go 
home at once! Take Bob with you, and drive 
somewhere into the country, and stay till this thing 
is over;" and Lincoln did take Bob and drove 
away to Tazewell Court House "on business." 
Herndon congratulates himself upon having " saved 
Lincoln," since either joining, or refusing to join, 
the Abolitionists at that time would have been at- 
tended with "great danger." Lincoln had upon 
his own part a wise instinct and a strong purpose 
to keep hard by Douglas and to close with him as 
often as opportunity offered. Soon afterward the 
two encountered again, and on this occasion it is 
narrated that Lincoln gave Douglas so much trou- 
ble that Douglas cried for a truce, proposing that 
neither of them shoidd make any more speeches 
that autumn, to which Lincoln good-naturedly as- 

During this winter Lincoln was elected to the 
State Legislature, but contrary to his own wish. 
For he designed to be a candidate for the United 
States Senate, and there might be a question as 
to his eligibility if he remained a member of the 
electing body. Accordingly he resigned his seat, 
which, to his surprise and chagrin, was immediately 
filled by a Democrat ; for there was a reaction 
in Sangamon County. On February 8, 1855, the 
Legislature began voting to elect a senator. The 
"Douglas Democrats" wished to reelect Shields, 
the present incumbent. The first ballot stood, 


Lincoln, 45, Shields, 41, Lyman Trumbull, 5, 
scattering, 5 (or, according to other authority, 8). 
After several ballots Shields was thrown over in 
favor of a more "practicable " candidate, Gov- 
ernor Matteson, a "quasi -independent," who, 
upon the ninth ballot, showed a strength of 47, 
while Trumbull had 35, Lincoln had run down to 
15, and "scattering" caught 1. Lincoln's weak- 
ness lay in the fact that the Abolitionists had too 
loudly praised him and publicly counted him as 
one of themselves. For this reason five Demo- 
crats, disgusted with Douglas for his attack on the 
Missouri Compromise, but equally bitter against 
Abolitionism, stubbornly refused ever to vote for a 
Whig, above all a Whig smirched by Abolitionist 
applause. So it seemed that Owen Lovejoy and 
his friends had encumbered Lincoln with a fatal 
handicap. The situation was this : Lincoln could 
count upon his fifteen adherents to the extremity; 
but the five anti-Douglas Democrats were equally 
stanch against him, so that his chance was evi- 
dently gone. Trumbull was a Democrat, but he 
was opposed to the policy of Douglas's Kansas- 
Nebraska bill; his following was not altogether 
trustworthy, and a trifling defection from it seemed 
likely to occur and to make out Matteson 's major- 
ity. Lincoln pondered briefly; then, subjecting 
all else to the great principle of "anti-Nebraska," 
he urged his friends to transfer their votes to 
Trimibull. With grumbling and reluctance they 
did so, and by this aid, on the tenth ballot, Trum- 


bull was elected. In a letter to Washburne, Lin- 
coln wrote: "I think you would have done the 
same under the circumstances, though Judge 
Davis, who came down this morning, declares he 
never would have consented to the 47 men being 
controlled by the 5. I regret my defeat moder- 
ately, but am not nervous about it." If that was 
true which was afterwards so frequently reiterated 
by Douglas during the campaign of 1858, that a 
bargain had been struck between Lincoln and 
Trumbull, whereby the former was to succeed 
Shields and the latter was to succeed Douglas at 
the election two years later, then Lincoln certainly 
displayed on this occasion a "generosity" which 
deserves more than the very moderate praise which 
has been given it, of being "above the range of 
the mere politician's vision."^ 

An immediate effect of this repealing legislation 
of 1854 was to cast Kansas into the arena as booty 
to be won in fight between anti-slavery and pro- 
slavery. For this competition the North had the 
advantage that its population outnumbered that of 
the South in the ratio of three to two, and emigra- 
tion was in accord with the habits of the people. 
Against this the South offset proximity, of which 
the peculiar usefulness soon became apparent. 
Then was quickly imder way a fair fight, in a cer- 
tain sense, but most unfairly fought. Each side 
contended after its fashion; Northern anti-slavery 
merchants subscribed money to pay the expenses 
1 N. andH.,i. 388. 


of free-state immigrants. "Border ruffians" and 
members of "Blue Lodges "and of kindred fra- 
ternities came across the border from Missouri to 
take a hand in every politico - belligerent crisis. 
The parties were not unequally matched ; by tem- 
perament the free-state men were inclined to orderly 
and legitimate ways, yet they were willing and able 
to fight fire with fire. On the other hand, the 
slave-state men had a native preference for the 
bowie-knife and the shot-gun, yet showed a kind 
of respect for the ballot-box by insisting that it 
should be stuffed with votes on their side. Thus 
for a long while was waged a dubious, savage and 
peculiar warfare. Imprisonments and rescues, 
beatings, shootings, plunderings, burnings, sieges, 
and lootings of towns were interspersed with elec- 
tions of civil officers, with legislative enactments 
in ordinary form, with trials, suits at law, legal 
arguments and decisions of judges. It is impossi- 
ble here to sketch in detail this strange phantas- 
magory of arson, bloodshed, politics, and law. 

Meantime other occurrences demand mention. 
In May, 1854, the seizure in Boston of Anthony 
Burns, as an escaped slave, caused a riot in which 
the Court House was attacked by a mob, one of 
the assailants was killed, and the militia were 
called out. Other like seizures elsewhere aroused 
the indignation of people who, whatever were their 
abstract theories as to the law, revolted at the 
actual spectacle of a man dragged back from 
freedom into slavery. May 22, 1856, Preston S. 


Brooks strode suddenly upon Charles Sumner, 
seated and unarmed at his desk in the Senate 
Chamber, and beat him savagely over the head 
with a cane, inflicting very serious injuries. Had 
it been a fair fight, or had the South repudiated 
the act, the North might have made little of it, for 
Sumner was too advanced in his views to be politi- 
cally popular. But, although the onslaught was 
even more offensive for its cowardice than for its 
brutality, nevertheless the South overwhelmed 
Brooks with laudation, and by so doing made 
thousands upon thousands of Republican votes at 
the North. The deed, the enthusiastic greeting, 
and the angry resentment marked the alarming 
height to which the excitement had risen. 

The presidential campaign of the following sum- 
mer, 1856, showed a striking disintegration and 
re-formation of political groups. Nominally there 
were four parties in the field : Democrats, Whigs, 
Native Americans or Know-Nothings, and Kepub- 
licans. The Know-Nothings had lately won some 
State elections, but were of little account as a na- 
tional organization, for they stood upon an issue 
hopelessly insignificant in comparison with slavery. 
Already many had gone over to the Republican 
camp; those who remained nominated as their 
candidates Millard Fillmore and Andrew J. Donel- 
son. The Whigs were the feeble remnant of a 
really dead party, held together by affection for 
the old name; too few to do anything by them- 
selves, they took by adoption the Know-Nothing 


candidates. The Republican party had been born 
only in 1854. Its members, differing on other 
matters, united upon the one doctrine, which they 
accepted as a test : opposition to the extension of 
slavery. They nominated John C. Fremont and 
William L. Dayton, and made a platform whereby 
they declared it to be "both the right and the duty 
of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those 
twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery;" 
by which vehement and abusive language they ex- 
cited the bitter resentment of the Southern Demo- 
cracy. In this Convention 110 votes were cast for 
Lincoln for the second place on the ticket. La- 
mon tells the little story that when this was told 
to Lincoln he replied that he could not have been 
the person designated, who was, doubtless, "the 
great Lincoln from Massachusetts." ^ In the Dem- 
ocratic party there were two factions. The favor- 
ite candidate of the South was Franklin Pierce, 
for reelection, with Stephen A. Douglas as a sub- 
stitute or second choice ; the North more generally 
preferred James Buchanan, who was understood 
to be displeased with the repeal of the Missouri 
Compromise. The struggle was sharp, but was 
won by the friends of Buchanan, with whom 
John C. Breckenridge was coupled. The campaign 
was eager, for the Republicans soon developed a 
strength beyond what had been expected and which 

1 Thus when John Adams first landed in Europe, and was asked 
whether he was "the great Mr. Adams," he said: No, the g^eat 
Mr. Adams was his cousin, Samuel Adams, of Boston. 


put the Democrats to their best exertions. The 
result was 

Democrats. RepubUcans. ^^"^"i^^^^es 

Popular vote . . 1,838,169 1,341,264 874,534 

Electoral vote . . 174 114 8 

Thus James Buchanan became President of the 
United States, March 4, 1857, — stigmatized some- 
what too severely as "a Northern man with South- 
ern principles; " in fact an honest man and of good 
abilities, who, in ordinary times, would have left 
a fair reputation as a statesman of the second rank ; 
but a man hopelessly unfit alike in character and 
in mind either to comprehend the present emer- 
gency or to rise to its demands.^ Yet, while the 
Democrats triumphed, the Republicans enjoyed the 
presage of the future ; they had polled a total nima- 
ber of votes which surprised every one; on the 
other hand, the Democrats had lost ten States ^ 
which they had carried in 1852 and had gained 
only two others,^ showing a net loss of eight 
States; and their electoral votes had dwindled 
from 254 to 174. 

On the day following Buchanan's inauguration 
that occurred which had been foreshadowed with 
ill-advised plainness in his inaugural address. In 

^ For a fair aiid discriminatuig estimate of Buchanan, see 
Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, vol. i. ch. x., especially pp. 

^ Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New 
York, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, all for Fremont ; Mary- 
land for Fillmore. 

^ Tennessee and Kentucky. 


the famous case of Dred Scott, ^ the Supreme Court 
of the United States established as law the doc- 
trine lately advanced by the Southern Democrats, 
that a slave was "property," and that his owner 
was entitled to be protected in the possession of 
him, as such, in the Territories. This necessarily 
demolished the rival theory of "popular sover- 
eignty," which the Douglas Democrats had adopted, 
not without shrewdness, as being far better suited 
to the Northern mind. For clearly the people en- 
joyed no sovereignty where they had no option. 
Consequently in the Territories there was no longer 
a slavery question. The indignation of anti-slav- 
ery men of all shades of opinion was intense, and 
was unfortunately justifiable. For wholly apart 
from the controversy as to whether the law was 
better expounded by the Chief Justice or by Judge 
Curtis in his dissenting opinion, there remained a 
main fact, undeniable and inexcusable, to wit: 
that the Court, having decided that the lower 
court had no jurisdiction, and being therefore it- 
self unable to remand the cause for a new trial, 
had then outstepped its own proper function and 
outraged legal propriety, by determining the ques- 
tions raised by the rest of the record, — questions 
which no longer had any real standing before this 
tribunal. This course was well known to have 
been pursued with the purpose on the part of the 

1 Dred Scott, plfE. in error vs. Sandford, Sup. Ct. of U. S. Dec. 
Term, 1856, 19 Howard, 393. After the conclusion of this case 
Scott was given his freedom by his master. 


majority of the judges to settle by judicial author- 
ity, and by a dictum conspicuously obiter, that 
great slavery question with which Congress had 
grappled in vain. It was a terrible blunder, for 
the people were only incensed by a volunteered and 
unauthorized interference. Moreover, the reason- 
ing of Chief Justice Taney was such that the Re- 
publicans began anxiously to inquire why it was 
not as applicable to States as to Territories, and 
why it must not be extended to States when occa- 
sion should arrive ; and in this connection it seemed 
now apparent why "States" had been named in 
the bill which repealed the Missouri Compromise. ^ 
In spite of this menace the struggle in Kansas 
was not slackened. Time had been counting heav- 
ily in favor of the North. Her multitudinous pop- 
ulation ceaselessly fed the stream of immigrants, 
and they were stubborn fellows who came to stay, 
and therefore were sure to wear out the persist- 
ence of the boot-and-saddle men from over the 
Missouri border. Accordingly, in 1857, the free- 
state men so vastly outnumbered the slavery con- 
tingent, that even pro-slavery men had to acknow- 
ledge it. Then the slavery party made its last 
desperate effort. Toward the close of that year 
the Lecompton Constitution was framed by a con- 
vention chosen at an election in which the free- 
state men, perhaps unwisely, had refused to take 
part. When this pro - slavery instrument was 
offered to the people, they were not allowed to 
vote simply Yea or Nay, but only "for the Con- 
1 Ante, pp. 94, 95. 


stitution with slavery," or "for the Constitution 
with no slavery." Again the free-state men re- 
frained from voting, and on December 21, 6,143 
ballots were declared to have been cast "for the 
Constitution with slavery," and 589 "for the Con- 
stitution with no slavery." Much more than one 
third of the 6,143 were proved to be fraudulent, 
but the residue far exceeded the requisite majority. 
January 4, 1858, State officers were to be chosen, 
and now the free-state men decided to make an 
irregular opportunity to vote, in their turn, simply 
for or against the Lecompton Constitution. This 
time the pro-slavery men, considering the matter 
already lawfully settled, refused to vote, and the 
result was that this polling showed 10,226 against 
the Constitution, 138 for the Constitution with 
slavery, 24 for the Constitution without slavery. 
It is an instance of Lincoln's political foresight 
that nearly two years and a half before this condi- 
tion of affairs came about he had written: "If 
Kansas fairly votes herself a slave State, she must 
be admitted, or the Union must be dissolved. 
But how if she votes herseK a slave State unfairly? 
. . . Must she still be admitted, or the Union be 
dissolved? That will be the phase of the question 
when it first becomes a practical one." ^ 

The struggle was now transferred to Washing- 
ton. President Buchanan had solemnly pledged 
himself to accept the result of the popular vote. 
Now he was confronted by two popular votes, of 

1 Aug. 24, 1855 ; Holland, 145. 


which the one made somewhat the better technical 
and formal showing, and the other undeniably ex- 
pressed the true will of a large majority of lawful 
voters. He selected the former, and advised Con- 
gress to admit Kansas under the Lecompton Con- 
stitution with slavery. But Douglas took the 
other side. The position of Douglas in the nation 
and in the Democratic party deserves brief consid- 
eration, for in a way it was the cause of Lincoln's 
nomination as the Republican candidate for the 
presidency in 1860. From 1852 to 1860 Douglas 
was the most noteworthy man in public life in the 
country. Webster, Clay, and Calhoun had passed 
away. Seward, Chase, and Sumner, still in the 
earlier stages of their brilliant careers, were or- 
ganizing the great party of the future. This in- 
terval of eight years belonged to Douglas more 
than to any other one man. He had been a candi- 
date for the Democratic nomination for the presi- 
dency in 1852 and again in 1856 ; and had failed 
to secure it in part by reason of that imwritten 
rule whereby the leading statesmen are so often 
passed over, in order to confer the great prize upon 
insignificant and therefore presumably submissive 
men. Douglas was not of this type ; he had high 
spirit, was ambitious, masterful and self-confident ; 
he was also an aggressive, brilliant, and tireless 
fighter in a political campaign, an orator combin- 
ing something of the impressiveness of Webster 
with the readiness and roughness of the stump 
speaker. He had a thorough familiarity with all 


the politics, both the greater and the smaller, of 
the time ; he was shrewd and adroit as a politician, 
and he had as good a right as any man then prom- 
inent in public life to the more dignified title of 
statesman. He had the art of popularity, and 
upon sufficient occasion could be supple and accom- 
modating even in the gravest matters of principle. 
He had always been a Democrat. He now re- 
garded himself as properly the leader of the Demo- 
cratic party; and of course he still aimed at the 
hia-h office which he had twice missed.^ With 
this object in view, he had gone very far to retain 
his hold upon the South. He told Southerners 
that by his happy theory of "popular sovereignty" 
he had educated the public mind, and accomplished 
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. When 
the Dred Scott decision took the life out of his 
"popular sovereignty," he showed his wonted read- 
iness in adapting himseK to the situation. To the 
triumphant South he graciously admitted the final- 
ity of a decision which sustained the most extreme 
Southern doctrine. To the perturbed and indig- 
nant North he said cheeringly that the decision 
was of no practical consequence whatsoever ! For 
every one knew that slavery could not exist in 
any community without the aid of friendly legisla- 
tion ; and if any anti-slavery community should by 
its anti-slavery legislature withhold this essential 
friendly legislation, then slavery in that State 

1 For a good sketch of Douglas, see Blaine, Twenty Years of 
Congress, i. 144. 


might be lawful but would be impossible. So, he 
said, there is still in fact "popular sovereignty." ^ 
When the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution 
came up for consideration Douglas decided not 
to rest content with the form of popular approval, 
but to stand out for the substance. He quarreled 
with Buchanan, and in an angry interview they 
exchanged threats and defiance. Douglas felt 
himself the greater man of the two in the party, 
and audaciously indicated something like contempt 
for the rival who was not leader but only President. 
Conscience, if one may be allowed gravely to speak 
of the conscience of a professional politician, and 
policy, were in comfortable unison in commending 
this choice to Douglas. For his term as senator 
was to expire in 1858, and reelection was not only 
in itself desirable, but seemed essential to securing 
the presidency in 1860. Heretofore Illinois had 
been a Democratic State; the southern part, peo- 
pled by immigrants from neighboring slave States, 
was largely pro-slavery; but the northern part, 
containing the rapidly growing city of Chicago, 
had been filled from the East, and was inclined to 
sympathize with the rest of the North. Such be- 
ing the situation, an avowal of Democratic princi- 
ples, coupled with the repudiation of the Lecomp- 
ton fraud, seemed the shrewd and safe course in 
view of Douglas's political surroundings, also the 

^ This doctrine was set forth by Douglas in a speech at Spring- 
field, 111., June 12, 1857. A fortnight later, June 26, at the same 
place, Lincoln answered this speech. N. and H., ii. 85-89. 


consistent, or may we say honest, course in view 
of his antecedent position. If, in thus retaining 
his hold on Illinois, he gave to the Southern Demo- 
cracy an offense which could never be forgotten or 
forgiven, this misfortune was due to the impracti- 
cable situation and not to any lack of skiKul strat- 
egy on his part. In spite of him the bill passed 
the Senate, but in the House twenty -two Northern 
Democrats went over to the opposition, and car- 
ried a substitute measure, which established that 
the Lecompton Constitution must again be sub- 
mitted to popular vote. Though this was done by 
the body of which Douglas was not a member, yet 
every one felt that it was in fact his triumph over 
the administration. A Committee of Conference 
then brought in the "English bill." Under this 
the Kansans were to vote, August 3, 1858, either 
to accept the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution, 
with the douceur of a land grant, or to reject it. 
If they accepted it, the State was to be admitted 
at once; if they rejected it, they were not to be 
admitted until the population should reach the 
number which was required for electing a member 
to the House of Representatives. At present the 
population was far short of this number, and 
therefore rejection involved a long delay in acquir- 
ing statehood. Douglas very justly assailed the 
unfairness of a proposal by which an anti-slavery 
vote was thus doubly and very severely handi- 
capped; but the bill was passed by both Houses 
of Congress and was signed by the president. The 


Kansans, however, by an enormous majority, ^ re- 
jected the bribes of land and statehood in connec- 
tion with slavery. For his action concerning the 
Lecompton Constitution and the "English bill" 
Dousrlas afterward took much credit to himself. 

Such was the stage of advancement of the slav- 
ery conflict in the country, and such the position 
of Douglas in national and in state politics, when 
there took place that great campaign in Illinois 
which made him again senator in 1858, and made 
Lincoln president in 1860. 

1 By 11,300 against 1,788, Aug. 2, 1858. Kansas was admitted 
as a State at the close of January, 1861, after many of the Southern 
States had already seceded. 


About this time Lincoln again became active 
in the politics of his State, aiding in the formation 
of the Republican party there. On May 29, 1856, 
a state convention of "all opponents of anti-Ne- 
braska legislation " was held at Bloomington. 
After "a platform ringing with strong anti-Ne- 
braska sentiments" had been adopted, Lincoln, 
"in response to repeated calls, came forward and 
delivered a speech of such earnestness and power 
that no one who heard it will ever forget the effect 
it produced." It was "never written out or 
printed," which is to be regretted; but it lives in 
one of those vivid descriptions by Herndon which 
leave nothing to the imagination. For the moment 
this triumph was gratifying; but when Lincoln, 
leaving the hot enthusiasts of Bloomington, came 
home to his fellow-townsmen at Springfield, he 
passed into a chill atmosphere of indifference and 
disapproval. An effort was made to gather a mass 
meeting in order to ratify the action of the State 
convention. But the "mass" consisted of three 
persons, viz., Abraham Lincoln, Herndon, and 
one John Pain. It was trying, but Lincoln was 


finely equal to the occasion ; in a few words, pass- 
ing from jest to earnest, he said that the meeting 
was larger than he knew it would be; for while 
he knew that he and his partner would attend, 
he was not sure of any one else; and yet another 
man had been found brave enough to come out. 
But, "while all seems dead, the age itself is not. 
It liveth as sure as our Maker liveth. Under all 
this seeming want of life and motion the world 
does move, nevertheless. Be hopeful, and now 
let us adjourn and appeal to the people! " 

In the presidential campaign of 1856 the Kepub- 
licans of Illinois put Lincoln on their electoral 
ticket, and he entered into the campaign promptly 
and very zealously. Traveling untiringly to and 
fro, he made about fifty speeches. By the quality 
of these, even more than by their number, he be- 
came the champion of the party, so that pressing 
demands for him came from the neighboring 
States. He was even heard of in the East. But 
there he encountered a lack of appreciation and 
in some quarters an hostility which he felt to be 
hurtful to his prospects as well as unjust towards 
a leading Republican of the Northwest. Horace 
Greeley, enthusiastic, well meaning, ever blunder- 
ing, the editor of the New York "Tribune," cast 
the powerful influence of that sheet against him; 
and as the senatorial contest of 1858 was approach- 
ing, in which Lincoln hoped to be a principal, this 
ill feeling was very unfortunate.^ "I fear," he 

^ As an example of Greeley's position, see letter quoted by 


said, "that Greeley's attitude will damage me 
with Sumner, Seward, Wilson, Phillips, and other 
friends in the East," — and by the way, it is in- 
teresting to note this significant list of political 
"friends." Thereupon Herndon, as guardian of 
Lincoln's political prospects, went to pass the open- 
ing months of the important year upon a crusade 
among the great men of the East, designing to ex- 
tinguish the false lights erroneously hung out by 
persons ignorant of the truth. Erelong he cheered 
Lincoln by encouraging accounts of success and of 
kind words spoken by many Eastern magnates. 

In 1858, ability, courage, activity, ambition, 
the prestige of success, and a plausible moderation 
in party politics combined to make Douglas the 
most conspicuous individual in the public view. 
There was no other way whereby any other man 
could so surely attract the close and interested at- 
tention of the whole people as by meeting Douglas 
in direct personal competition. If Douglas had 
not held the position which he did, or if, holding 
it, he had lived in another State than Illinois, Lin- 
coln might never have been president of the United 
States. But the essential facts lay favorably for 
effecting that presentation before the people which 
was indispensable for his fortunes. In April, 
1858, the Democratic State Convention of Illinois 

N. and H., ii. 140, note. The fact that he was strenuously pro- 
Douglas and anti- Lincoln is well known. Yet afterward he said 
that it " was hardly in human nature" for Republicans to treat 
Douglas as a friend. Greeley's American Conflict, i. 301. 


indorsed the position which Douglas had taken in 
the Kansas business. This involved that the party 
should present him as its candidate for reelection 
to the national Senate by the legislature whose 
members were to be chosen in the following autumn. 
"In the very nature of things," says the enthu- 
siastic Herndon, Lincoln was at once selected by 
the Republicans, and on June 16 their Convention 
resolved that "Hon. Abraham Lincoln is our first 
and only choice for United States senator to fill 
the vacancy about to be created by the expiration 
of Mr. Douglas's term of office." Immediately 
the popular excitement gave measure of the esti- 
mate placed upon the two men by those who most 
accurately knew their qualities. All lUinoisians 
looked forward eagerly to the fine spectacle of a 
battle royal between real leaders. 

The general political condition was extremely 
confused. The great number of worthy citizens, 
who had been wont to save themselves from the 
worry of critical thought in political matters by 
the simple process of uniform allegiance to a party, 
now found the old familiar organizations rapidly 
disintegrating. They were dismayed and bewil- 
dered at the scene; everywhere there were new 
cries, new standards, new leaders, while small 
bodies of recruits, displaying in strange union old 
comrades beside old foes, were crossing to and fro 
and changing relationships, to the inextricable con- 
fusion of the situation. In such a chaos each man 
was driven to do his own thinking, to discover his 


genuine beliefs, and to determine in what company 
he could stand enduringly in the troublous times 
ahead. It was one of those periods in which small 
men are laid aside and great leaders are recognized 
by popular instinct; when the little band that is in 
deepest earnest becomes endowed with a force 
which compels the mass of careless, temporizing 
human-kind to gravitate towards it. Such bands 
were now the Abolitionists at the North and the 
Secessionists at the South. Between them lay the 
nation, disquieted, contentious, and more than a 
little angry at the prevalent discomfort and alarm. 
At the North nine men out of ten cared far less 
for any principle, moral or political, than they did 
for the discovery of some course whereby this un- 
welcome conflict between slavery and freedom 
could be prevented from disorganizing the course 
of daily life and business ; and since the Abolition- 
ists were generally charged with being in great 
measure responsible for the present menacing con- 
dition, they were regarded with bitter animosity 
by a large number of their fellow-citizens. The 
Secessionists were not in equal disfavor at the 
South, yet they were still very much in the minor- 
ity, even in the Gulf States. 

Illinois had been pretty stanchly Democratic in 
times past, but no one could forecast the complex- 
ion which she would put on in the coming cam- 
paign. The Whigs were gone. The Republican 
party, though so lately born, yet had already trav- 
ersed the period of infancy and perhaps also that 


of youth; men guessed wildly how many voters 
would now cast its ballot. On the other hand, the 
Democrats were suffering from internal quarrels. 
The friends of Douglas, and all moderate Demo- 
crats, declared him to be the leader of the Demo- 
cracy; but Southern conventions and newspapers 
were angrily "reading him out" of the party, and 
the singular spectacle was witnessed of the Demo- 
cratic administration sending out its orders to all 
Federal office - holders in Illinois to oppose the 
Democratic nominee, even to the point of giving 
the election to the Republicans; for if discipline 
was to exist, a defection like that of which Douglas 
had been guilty must be punished with utter and 
everlasting destruction at any cost. This schism 
of course made the numerical uncertainties even 
more uncertain than they rightfully should have 
been. Yet, in an odd way, the same fact worked 
also against Lincoln; for Douglas's recent votes 
against the pro- slavery measures of the administra- 
tion for the admission of Kansas, together with his 
own direct statements on recent occasions, had put 
him in a light which misled many Northern anti- 
slavery men, whose perception did not penetrate to 
the core-truth. For example, not only Greeley, 
but Henry Wilson, Burlingame, Washburne, Col- 
fax, and more, really believed that Douglas was 
turning his back upon his whole past career, and 
that this brilliant political strategist was actually 
bringing into the anti-slavery camp ^ all his accu- 

1 Wilson, Bise and Fall of the Slave Power, ii. 567 ; for sketches 


mulations of prestige, popularity, and experience, 
all his seductive eloquence, his skill, and his grand 
mastery over men. Blinded by the dazzling pros- 
pect, they gave all their influence in favor of this 
priceless recruit, forgetting that, if he were in fact 
such an apostate as they believed him to be, he 
would come to them terribly shrunken in value and 
trustworthiness. Some even were so infatuated as 
to insist that the Republicans of Illinois ought to 
present no candidate against him. Fortunately 
the Illinoisians knew their fellow-citizen better; 
yet in so strange a jumble, no one could deny that 
it was a doubtful conflict in which these two rivals 
were joining. 

Lincoln had expected to be nominated, and dur- 
ing several weeks he had been thinking over his 
speech of acceptance. However otherwise he might 
seem at any time to be engaged, he was ceaselessly 
turning over this matter in his mind; and fre- 
quently he stopped short to jot down an idea or 
expression upon some scrap of paper, which then 
he thrust into his hat. Thus, piece by piece, the 
accumulation grew alike inside and outside of his 
head, and at last he took all his fragments and 
with infinite consideration moulded them into 
unity. So studiously had he wrought that by the 
time of delivery he had unconsciously committed 

of Douglas's position, see Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, i. 141- 
144 ; Ton Hoist, Const. Hist, of U. S., vi. 280-286 ; Herndon, 391- 
395; N. and H., u. 138-143; Lamon, 390-395; HoUand, 158. 
Crittenden was one of the old Whigs, who now sorely disappointed 
Lincoln by preferring Douglas. N. and H., ii. 142. 


the whole speech accurately to memory. If so 
much painstaking seemed to indicate an exagger- 
ated notion of the importance of his words, he was 
soon vindicated by events; for what he said was 
subjected to a dissection and a criticism such as 
have not often pursued the winged words of the 
orator. When at last the composition was com- 
pleted, he gathered a small coterie of his friends 
and admirers, and read it to them. The opening 
paragraph was as follows : — 

"If we could first know where we are, and 
whither we are tending, we could better judge 
what to do and how to do it. We are now far 
into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with 
the avowed object and confident promise of putting 
an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation 
of that policy, that agitation has not only not 
ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my 
opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have 
been reached and passed. 'A house divided 
against itself cannot stand.' I believe this gov- 
ernment cannot endure permanently half slave and 
half free. I do not expect the Union to be dis- 
solved, — I do not expect the house to fall, — but 
I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will 
become all one thing or aU the other. Either 
the opponents of slavery will arrest the further 
spread of it, and place it where the public mind 
shall rest in the belief that it is in the course 
of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push 
it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all 


the States, old as well as new, — North as well 
as South." 

As the reader watched for the effect of this ex- 
ordium he saw only disapproval and consternation. 
His assembled advisers and critics, each and all 
save only the fiery Herndon, protested that lan- 
guage so daring and advanced would work a ruin 
that might not be mended in years. Lincoln heard 
their condemnation with gravity rather than sur- 
prise. But he had worked his way to a conviction, 
and he was immovable ; all he said was, that the 
statement was true, right, and just, that it was 
time it should be made, and that he would make 
it, even though he might have "to go down with 
it;" that he would "rather be defeated with this 
expression in the speech . . . than to be victo- 
rious without it." Accordingly, on the next day 
he spoke the paragraph without the change of a 

It is not without effort that we can now appre- 
ciate fully why this utterance was so momentous 
in the spring of 1858.^ By it Lincoln came before 

1 Several months afterward, Oct. 25, 1858, Mr. Seward made 
the speech at Rochester which contained the famous sentence: 
" It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring 
forces, and it means that the United States must and wiU, sooner 
or later, become either entirely a slave-holding nation, or entirely 
a free-labor nation." Seward's Works^ new edition, 1884, iv. 292. 
But Seward ranked among the extremists and the agitators. See 
Lincoln and Douglas Deb. 244. After all, the idea had already 
found expression in the Richmond Enquirer, May 6, 1856, quoted 
by von Hoist, vi. 299, also referred to by Lincoln; see Lincoln 
and Douglas Deb. 262. 


the people with a plain statement of precisely that 
which more than nine hundred and ninety-nine 
persons in every thousand, especially at the North, 
were striving with all their might to stamp down 
as an untruth; he said to them what they all were 
denying with desperation, and with rage against 
the assertors. Their bitterness was the greater 
because very many, in the bottom of their hearts, 
distrusted their own painful and strenuous denial. 
No words could be more unpopular than that the 
divided house coiild not permanently stand, when 
the whole nation was insisting, with the intensity 
of despair, that it could stand, would stand, must 
stand. Consequently occurrences soon showed his 
friends to be right so far as concerned the near, 
practical point: that the paragraph would cost 
more voters in Illinois than Lincoln could lose 
without losing his election. But beyond that 
point, a little farther away in time, much deeper 
down amid enduring results, Lincoln's judgment 
was ultimately seen to rest upon fundamental 
wisdom, politically as well as morally. For Lin- 
coln was no idealist, sacrificing realities to abstrac- 
tions; on the contrary, the right which he saw 
was always a practical right, a right which could 
be compassed. In this instance, the story goes 
that he retorted upon some of those who grumbled 
about his "mistake," that in time they "would 
consider it the wisest thing he ever said." In this 
he foretold truly ; that daring and strong utterance 
was the first link in the chain of which a more dis- 


tant link lay across the threshold of the White 

A battle opened by so resounding a shot was 
siu'e to be furious. Writers and speakers fell 
upon the fateful paragraph and tore it savagely. 
They found in it a stimulus which, in fact, was not 
needed; for already were present all the elements 
of the fiercest struggle, — the best man and the 
best fighter in each party at the front, and not un- 
evenly matched; a canvass most close and doubt- 
ful; and a question which stirred the souls of men 
with the passions of crusading days. Douglas 
added experience and distinction to gallantry in 
attack, adroitness in defense, readiness in person- 
alities, and natural aptitude for popular oratory. 
Lincoln frankly admitted his formidable qualifica- 
tions. But the Republican managers had a shrewd 
appreciation of both opponents ; they saw that Lin- 
coln's forte lay in hitting out straight, direct, and 
hard; and they felt that blows of the kind he de- 
livered should not go out into the air, but should 
alight upon a concrete object, — upon Douglas. 
They conceived a wise plan. On July 24, 1858, 
Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of joint 
debates. Douglas accepted, and named seven 
meetings, which he so arranged that he opened and 
closed four times and Lincoln opened and closed 
three times; but Lincoln made no point of the 
inequality; the arrangement was completed, and 
this famous duel constituted another link in that 
White House chain. 


The setting of the sijectacle had the picturesque- 
ness of the times and the region. The people 
gathered in vast midtitudes, to the number of ten 
thousand, even of twenty thousand, at the places 
named for the speech-making ; they came in their 
wagons from all the coimtry round, bringing pro- 
visions, and making camps in the groves and fields. 
There were bonfires and music, parading and 
drinking. He was a singular man in Illinois who 
was not present at some one of these encoimters. 

Into a competition so momentous Lincoln en- 
tered with a full appreciation of the burden and 
responsibility which it put upon him. He had at 
once to meet a false gloss of his famous sentence ; 
and though he had been very precise and accurate 
in his phraseology for the express purpose of es- 
caping misinterpretation, yet it would have been 
a marvel in applied political morals if the para- 
phrases devised by Douglas had been strictly in- 
genuous. The favorite distortion was to alter 
what was strictly a forecast into a declaration of a 
policy, to make a prediction pass for an avowal of 
a purpose to wage war against slavery until either 
the "institution" or "Abolitionism" should be 
utterly defeated and forever exterminated. It was 
said to be a "doctrine" which was "revolutionary 
and destructive of this government," and which 
"invited a warfare between the North and the 
South, to be carried on with ruthless vengeance, 
until the one section or the other shaU be driven to 
the wall and become the victim of the rapacity of 


the other." Such misrepresentation annoyed Lin- 
coln all the more because it was undeserved. The 
history of the utterance thus maltreated illustrates 
the deliberate, cautious, thorough way in which his 
mind worked. So long ago as August 15, 1855, 
he had closed a letter with the paragraph : " Our 
political problem now is: Can we, as a nation, 
continue together permanently — forever^ half slave 
and half free ? The problem is too mighty for me. 
May God in his mercy superintend the solution." ^ 
This is one among many instances which show how 
studiously Lincoln pondered until he had got his 
conclusion into that simple shape in which it was 
immutable. When he had found a form which 
satisfied him for the expression of a conviction, he 
was apt to use it repeatedly rather than to seek 
new and varied shapes, so that substantially iden- 
tical sentences often recur at distant intervals of 
time and place. 

When one has been long studying with much 
earnest intensity of thought a perplexing and mov- 
ing question, and at last frames a conclusion with 
painstaking precision in perfectly clear language, 
it is not pleasant to have that accurate utterance 
mis-stated with tireless reiteration, and with infi- 
nite art and plausibility. But for this vexation 
Lincoln could find no remedy, and it was in vain 
that he again and again called attention to the fact 
that he had expressed neither a "doctrine," nor an 

1 Letter to Hon. Geo. Robertson, N. and H., i. 392; and see 
Lamon, 398 ; also see remarks of von Hoist, vi. 277. 


"invitation," nor any "purpose" or policy whatso- 
ever. But as it seemed not altogether courageous 
to leave his position in doubt, he said: "Now, 
it is singular enough, if you will carefully read 
that passage over, that I did not say in it that I 
was in favor of anything. I only said what I ex- 
pected would take place. ... I did not even say 
that I desired that slavery should be put in course 
of ultimate extinction. I do say so now, however, 
so there need be no longer any difficulty about 
that." He felt that nothing short of such extinc- 
tion would surely prevent the revival of a dispute 
which had so often been settled "ybreijer." "We 
can no more foretell," he said, "where the end of 
this slavery agitation will be than we can see the 
end of the world itself. . . . There is no way of 
putting an end to the slavery agitation amongst us 
but to put it back upon the basis where our fathers 
placed it. . . . Then the public mind will rest in 
the belief that it is in the course of ultimate ex- 

There was much of this eloquence about "the 
fathers," much evocation of the shades of the 
great departed, who, having reached the eternal 
silence, could be claimed by both sides. The con- 
tention was none the less strenuous because it was 
entirely irrelevant; since the opinion of "the fa- 
thers" could not make slavery right or wrong. 
Many times therefore did Douglas charge Lincoln 
with having said "that the Union could not en- 
dure divided as our fathers made it, with free and 


slave States;" as though this were a sort of blas- 
phemy against the national demigods. Lincoln 
aptly retorted that, as matter of fact, these same 
distinguished "fathers" — "Washington, Jeffer- 
son, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Jay, and the 
great men of that day " — did not make, hut found, 
the nation half slave and half free ; that they set 
"many clear marks of disapprobation " upon slav- 
ery, and left it so situated that the popular mind 
rested in the belief that it was in the course of ul- 
timate extinction. Unfortunately it had not been 
allowed to remain as they had left it ; but on the 
contrary, "all the trouble and convulsion has pro- 
ceeded from the efforts to spread it over more 

Pursuing this line, Lincoln alleged the purpose 
of the pro-slavery men to make slavery "perpetual 
and universal" and "national." In his great 
speech of acceptance at Springfield he put this 
point so well that he never improved upon this 
first presentation of it. The repeal of the Mis- 
souri Compromise in 1854 "opened all the na- 
tional territory to slavery, and was the first point 
gained. But so far Congress only had acted, and 
an indorsement by the people, real or imaginary," 
was obtained by "the notable argument of 'squat- 
ter sovereignty,' otherwise called 'sacred right of 
self-government,' which latter phrase, though ex- 
pressive of the only rightful basis of any govern- 
ment, was so perverted in this attempted use of it 
as to amount to just this: that if any one man 


choose to enslave another, no third man shall be 
permitted to object. That argument was incorpo- 
rated into the Nebraska bill." In May, 1854, 
this bill was passed. Then the presidential elec- 
tion came. "Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the 
indorsement was secured. That was the second 
point gained." Meantime the celebrated case of 
the negro, Dred Scott, was pending in the Su- 
preme Court, and the "President in his inaugural 
address fervently exhorted the people to abide by 
the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. 
Then in a few days came the decision," which was 
at once emphatically indorsed by Douglas, "the 
reputed author of the Nebraska bill," and by the 
new President. 

"At length a squabble springs up between the 
President and the author of the Nebraska bill on 
the mere question of Jaet, whether the Lecompton 
Constitution was or was not, in any just sense, 
made by the people of Kansas; and in that quarrel 
the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote 
for the people, and that he cares not whether slav- 
ery be voted down or voted uj). 

"The several points of the Dred Scott decision 
in connection with Senator Douglas's 'care not ' 
policy constitute the piece of machinery in its 
present state of advancement. This was the third 
point gained. 

"We cannot absolutely know that all these ex- 


act adaptations are the result of preconcert. But 
when we see a lot of framed timbers, different por- 
tions of which we know have been gotten out at 
different times and places and by different work- 
men, — Stephen, Franklin, Eoger, and James, for 
instance, — and when we see these timbers joined 
together, and see they exactly make the frame of 
a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices ex- 
actly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions 
of the different pieces exactly adapted to their re- 
spective places, and not a piece too many or too 
few, — not omitting even scaffolding ; or, if a sin- 
gle piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame 
exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece 
in, — in such a case, we find it impossible not to 
believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and 
James all understood one another from the begin- 
ning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft 
drawn up before the first blow was struck. 

"It should not be overlooked that by the Ne- 
braska bill the people of a State as well as a Terri- 
tory were to be left 'perfectly free,' 'subject only 
to the Constitution. ' Why mention a State f 
. . . Why is mention of this lugged into this 
merely territorial law? 

. . . "Put this and that together, and we have 
another nice little niche, which we may erelong see 
filled with another Supreme Court decision, declar- 
ing that the Constitution of the United States does 
not permit a State to exclude slavery from its 


limits. And this may especially be expected if 
the doctrine of 'care not whether slavery be voted 
down or voted up ' shall gain upon the public mind 
sufficiently to give promise that such a decision can 
be maintained when made. Such a decision is all 
that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all 
the States." Following out this idea Lincoln re- 
peatedly put to Douglas a question to which he 
could never get a direct answer from his nimble 
antagonist: "If a decision is made, holding that 
the people of the States cannot exclude slavery, 
will he support it, or not? " 

Even so skilful a dialectician as Douglas found 
this compact structure of history and argument a 
serious matter. Its simple solidity was not so sus- 
ceptible to treatment by the perverting process as 
had been the figurative and prophetic utterance 
about the "house divided against itseK." Neither 
could he find a chink between the facts and the 
inferences. One aspect of the speech, however, 
could not be passed over. Lincoln said that he 
had not charged "Stephen and Franklin and 
Roger and James" with collusion and conspiracy; 
but he admitted that he had "arrayed the evidence 
tending to prove," and which he "thought did 
prove," these things. ^ It was impossible for the 

1 Lincoln and Douglas Deb., 93. W. P. Fessenden, "who," 
says Mr. Blaine, " always spoke with precision and never with 
passion," expressed his opinion that if Fremont had been elected 
instead of Buchanan, that decision would never have been given. 
Twenty Years of Congress, i. 133. 


four distinguished gentlemen ^ who owned the rest 
of these names to refuse to plead. Accordingly 
Douglas sneered vehemently at the idea that two 
presidents, the chief justice, and he himself had 
been concerned in that grave crime against the 
State which was imputed to them ; and when, by 
his lofty indignation, he had brought his auditors 
into sympathy, he made the only possible reply: 
that the real meaning, the ultimate logical out- 
come, of what Lincoln had said was, that a deci- 
sion of the Supreme Court was to be set aside by 
the political action of the people at the polls. 
The Supreme Court had interpreted the Constitu- 
tion, and Lincoln was inciting the people to annul 
that interpretation by some political process not 
known to the law. For himself, he proclaimed 
with effective emphasis his allegiance to that 
great tribunal in the performance of its constitu- 
tional duties. Lincoln replied that he also bowed 
to the Dred Scott decision in the specific case; 
but he repudiated it as a binding rule in political 
action.^ His point seemed more obscure than was 

1 Stephen A. Douglas, Franklin Pierce, Roger B. Taney, James 

2 Lincoln and Douglas Deb., 198. At Chicago he said that he 
•would vote for the prohihition of slavery in a new Territory " in 
spite of the Dred Scott decision." Lincoln and Douglas Deb., 
20 ; and see the rest of his speech on the same page. The Illinois 
Republican Convention, June 16, 1858, expressed " condemnation 
of the principles and tendencies of the extra-judicial opinions of 
a majority of the judges, " as putting forth a "political heresy." 
HoUand, 159. 

Years ago Salmon P. Chase had dared to say that, if the courts 


usual with him, and not satisfactory as an answer 
to Douglas. But as matter of fact no one was 
deceived by the amusing adage of the profession : 
that the Courts do not make the law, but only 
declare what it is. Every one knew that the law 
was just what the judges chose from time to time 
to say that it was, and that if judicial declarations 
of the law were not reversed quite so often as le- 
gislative makings of the law were repealed, it was 
only because the identity of a bench is usually of 
longer duration than the identity of a legislative 
body. If the people, politically, willed the rever- 
sal of the Dred Scott decision, it was sure in time 
to be judicially reversed.^ 

Douglas boasted that the Democrats were a na- 
tional party, whereas the "Black Republicans" 
were a sectional body whose creed could not be 
uttered south of Mason and Dixon's line. He was 
assiduous in fastening upon Lincoln the name of 
"Abolitionist," and "Black Republican," epithets 
so unpopular that those who held the faith often 
denied the title, and he only modified them by the 
offensive admission that Lincoln's doctrines were 
sometimes disingenuously weakened to suit certain 
audiences: "His principles in the north [of Illi- 
nois] are jet black; in the centre they are in color 

•would not overthrow the pro-slavery construction of the Consti- 
tution, the people -would do so, even if it should be " necessary to 
overthrow the courts also." Warden's Life of Chase, 313. 

^ For Lincoln's explanation of his position concerning the Dred 
Scott decision, see Lincoln and Douglas Deb., 20. 


a decent mulatto ; and in lower Egypt ^ they are 
almost white." 

Concerning sectionalism, Lincoln countered 
fairly enough on his opponent by asking : Was it, 
then, the case that it was slavery which was na- 
tional, and freedom which was sectional ? Or, " Is 
it the true test of the soundness of a doctrine that 
in some places people won't let you proclaim it?" 
But the remainder of Douglas's assault was by no 
means to be disposed of by quick retort. When 
Lincoln was pushed to formulate accurately his 
views concerning the proper status of the negro in 
the community, he had need of all his extraordi- 
nary care in statement. Herein lay problems that 
were vexing many honest citizens and clever men 
besides himself, and were breeding much disagree- 
ment among persons who all were anti -slavery in 
a general way, but could by no means reach a com- 
fortable unison concerning troublesome particu- 
lars. The "all men free and equal" of the Con- 
stitution, and the talk about himaan brotherhood 
gave the Democrats wide scope for harassing anti- 
slavery men with vexatious taunts and embarrass- 
ing cross-interrogatories on practical points. "I 
do not question," said Douglas, "Mr. Lincoln's 
conscientious belief that the negro was made his 
equal, and hence is his brother. But for my own 
part, I do not regard the negro as my equal, and 
positively deny that he is my brother, or any kin 
to me whatever." He said that "the sis:ners of 

^ A nickname for the southern part of Illinois. 


the Declaration had no reference to the negro . . . 
or any other inferior and degraded race, when they 
spoke of the equality of men," but meant only 
"white men, of European birth and descent." 
This topic opens the whole subject of Lincoln's 
political affiliations and of his opinions concerning 
slavery and the negro, opinions which seem to 
have undergone no substantial change during the 
interval betwixt this campaign and his election to 
the presidency. Some selections from what he 
said may sufficiently explain his position. 

At Freeport, August 27, replying to a series of 
questions from Douglas, he declared that he had 
supposed himself, "since the organization of the 
Republican party at Bloomington, in May, 1856, 
bound as a party man by the platforms of the 
party, then and since." He said: "I do not now, 
nor ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional 
repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law." He believed 
that under the Constitution the Southerners were 
entitled to such a law ; but thought that the exist- 
ing law " should have been framed so as to be free 
from some of the objections that pertain to it, with- 
out lessening its efficiency." He would not "in- 
troduce it as a new subject of agitation upon the 
general question of slavery." 

He should be "exceedingly sorry" ever to have 
to pass upon the question of admitting more slave 
States into the Union, and exceedingly glad to 
know that another never would be admitted. But 
"if slavery shall be kept out of the Territories dur- 


ing the territorial existence of any one given Ter- 
ritory, and then the people shall, having a fair 
chance and a clear field, when they come to adopt 
their constitution, do such an extraordinary thing 
as to adopt a slave constitution, uninfluenced by 
the actual presence of the institution among them, 
I see no alternative, if we own the country, but 
to admit them into the Union." He should also, 
he said, be "exceedingly glad to see slavery abol- 
ished in the District of Columbia," and he believed 
that Congress had " constitutional power to abolish 
it" there; but he would favor the measure only 
upon condition : " First, that the abolition should 
be gradual; second, that it should be on a vote 
of the majority of qualified voters in the District; 
and, third, that compensation should be made to 
unwilling owners." As to the abolition of the 
slave trade between the different States, he ac- 
knowledged that he had not considered the matter 
sufficiently to have reached a conclusion concern- 
ing it. But if he should think that Congress had 
power to effect such abolition, he should "not be 
in favor of the exercise of that power unless upon 
some conservative principle, akin to what I have 
said in relation to the abolition of slavery in the 
District of Colmnbia." As to the territorial con- 
troversy, he said: "I am impliedly, if not ex- 
pressly, pledged to a belief in the right and duty 
of Congress to prohibit slavery in aU the United 
States Territories." Concerning the acquisition 
of new territory he said: "I am not generally op- 


posed to honest acquisition of territory; and in 
any given case I would or would not oppose such 
acquisition, according as I might think such acqui- 
sition would or would not aggravate the slavery 
question among ourselves." The statement de- 
rived its immediate importance from the well- 
known purpose of the administration and a con- 
siderable party in the South very soon to acquire 
Cuba. All these utterances were certainly clear 
enough, and were far from constituting Abolition- 
ist doctrine, though they were addressed to an 
audience "as strongly tending to Abolitionism as 
any audience in the State of Illinois," and Mr. 
Lincoln believed that he was saying "that which, 
if it would be offensive to any persons and render 
them enemies to himself, would be offensive to 
persons in this audience." 

At Quincy Lincoln gave his views concerning 
Republicanism with his usual unmistakable accu- 
racy, and certainly he again differentiated it widely 
from Abolitionism. The Republican party, he 
said, think slavery " a moral, a social, and a polit- 
ical wrong." Any man who does not hold this 
opinion "is misplaced and ought to leave us. 
While, on the other hand, if there be any man in 
the Republican party who is impatient over the 
necessity springing from its actual presence, and 
is impatient of the Constitutional guaranties 
thrown around it, and would act in disregard of 
these, he, too, is misplaced, standing with us. 
He wiU find his place somewhere else ; for we have 


a due regard ... for all these things." "I have 
always hated slavery as much as any Abolitionist, 
. . . but I have always been quiet about it until 
this new era of the introduction of the Nebraska 
bill again." He repeated often that he had "no 
purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with 
the institution of slavery in the States where it 
exists;" that he had "no lawful right to do so," 
and "no inclination to do so." He said that his 
declarations as to the right of the negro to "life, 
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," were de- 
signed only to refer to legislation "about any new 
country which is not already cursed with the ac- 
tual presence of the evil, — slavery." He denied 
having ever "manifested any impatience with the 
necessities that spring from the . . . actual exist- 
ence of slavery among us, where it does already 

He dwelt much upon the equality clause of the 
Constitution. If we begin "making exceptions to 
it, where will it stop ? If one man says it does not 
mean a negro, why not another say it does not 
mean some other man? " Only within three years 
past had any one doubted that negroes were in- 
cluded by this language. But he said that, while 
the authors "intended to include all men, they did 
not mean to declare all men equal in all respects, 
... in color, size, intellect, moral development, 
or social capacity," but only "equal in certain in- 
alienable rights." "Anything that argues me into 
his [Douglas's] idea of perfect social and political 


equality with the negro is hut a specious and fan- 
tastic arrangement of words, hy which a man can 
prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse. 
... I have no purpose to produce political and 
social equality between the white and the black 
races. There is a physical difference between the 
two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever 
forbid their living together upon the footing of 
perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a 
necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well 
as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to 
which I belong having the superior position. . . . 
But I hold that . . . there is no reason in the 
world why the negro is not entitled to all the 
natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of 
Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much 
entitled to these as the white man. I agree with 
Judge Douglas that he is not my equal in many 
respects, — certainly not in color, perhaps not in 
moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right 
to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, 
which his own hand earns, he is my equal, and the 
equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every 
living man.'''' Later at Charleston he reiterated 
much of this in almost identical language, and 
then in his turn took his fling at Douglas: "I 
am not in favor of making voters or jurors of ne- 
groes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor 
to intermarry with white peoj)le. ... I do not 
understand that because I do not want a negro wo- 


man for a slave I must necessarily want her for a 
wife. My understanding is that I can just let her 
alone. ... I have never had the least apprehen- 
sion that I or my friends would marry negroes, if 
there was no law to keep them from it; but as 
Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great 
apprehension that they might, if there were no law 
to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn 
pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law 
of this State, which forbids the marrying of white 
people with negroes." 

By all this it is made entirely evident that Lin- 
coln held a faith widely different from that of the 
great crusading leaders of Abolitionism at the 
East.^ Equally marked was the difference between 
him and them in the matters of temper and of the 
attitude taken towards opponents. The absence of 
any sense of personal hostility towards those who 
assailed him with unsparing vindictiveness was a 
trait often illustrated in his after life, and which 
was now noted with surprise, for it was rare in the 
excited politics of those days. In this especial 
campaign both contestants honestly intended to 
refrain from personalities, but the difference be- 
tween their ways of doing so was marked. Doug- 

^ Henry Wilson has made his criticism in the words that " some 
of his [Lineohi's] assertions and admissions were both unsatisfac- 
tory and offensive to anti-slavery men ; betrayed too much of the 
spirit of caste and prejudice against color, and sound harshly dis- 
sonant by the side of the Proclamation of Emancipation and the 
grand utterances of his later state papers." Hise and Fall of the 
Slave Power, ii. 576. 


las, under the temptation of high ability in that 
line, held himself in check by an effort which was 
often obvious and not always entirely successful. 
But Lincoln never seemed moved by the desire. 
"All I have to ask," he said, "is that we talk 
reasonably and rationally;" and again: "I hope 
to deal in all things fairly with Judge Douglas." 
No innuendo, no artifice, in any speech, gave the 
lie to these protestations. Besides this, his denun- 
ciations were always against slavery, and never 
against slave-holders. The emphasis of condem- 
nation, the intensity of feeling, were never ex- 
pended against persons. By this course, unusual 
among the Abolitionists, he not only lost nothing 
in force and impressiveness, but, on the contrary, 
his attack seemed to gain in effectiveness by being 
directed against no personal object, but exclusively 
against a practice. His war was against slavery, 
not against the men and women of the South who 
owned slaves. At Ottawa he read from the Peoria 
speech of 1854: "I have no prejudice against the 
Southern people. They are just what we would 
[should] be in their situation. If slavery did not 
now exist among them, they would not introduce 
it. If it did now exist among us, we should not 
instantly give it up. . . . It does seem to me that 
systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted ; 
but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake 
to judge our brethren of the South." Repeatedly 
he admitted the difficulty of the problem, and fas- 
tened no blame upon those Southerners who ex- 


cused themselves for not expelling the evil on the 
ground that they did not know how to do so. At 
Peoria he said: "If all earthly power were given 
me, I should not know what to do as to the exist- 
ing institution." He contributed some sugges- 
tions which certainly were nothing better than 
chimerical. Deportation to Africa was his favor- 
ite scheme; he also proposed that it would be 
" best for all concerned to have the colored popu- 
lation in a State by themselves." But he did not 
abuse men who declined to adopt his methods. 
Though he was dealing with a question which was 
arousing personal antagonisms as bitter as any 
that history records, yet he never condemned any 
one, nor ever passed judgment against his fellow- 

Diagnosis would perhaps show that the trait 
thus illustrated was rather mental than moral. 
This absence of animosity and reproach as towards 
individuals found its root not so much in human 
charity as in fairness of thinking. Lincoln's 
ways of mental working are not difficult to dis- 
cover. He thought slowly, cautiously, profoundly, 
and with a most close accuracy ; but above all else 
he thought fairly . This capacity far transcended, 
or, more correctly, differed from, what is ordinar- 
ily called the judicial habit of mind. Many men 
can weigh arguments without letting prejudice 
get into either scale; but Lincoln carried on the 
whole process of thinking not only with an equal 
clearness of perception, but also with an entire 


impartiality of liking or disliking for botk sides. 
His aim, while lie was engaged in thinking, was 
to discover what was really true ; and later when 
he spoke to others his purpose was to show them 
the truth which he had discovered and to state to 
them on what grounds he believed it to be the 
truth; it did not involve a judgment against the 
individuals who failed to recognize that truth. 
His singular trait of impersonality was not made 
more apparent in any other way. His effort never 
was to defeat the person who happened to be his 
adversary, but always was to overcome the argu- 
ments of that adversary. Primarily he was dis- 
cussing a topic and establishing a truth; it was 
only incidental that in doing these things he had 
to oppose a man. It is noteworthy that his oppo- 
nents never charged him with mis-stating their case 
in order to make an apparently effective answer to 
it. On the contrary, his hope of success seemed 
always to lie in having both sides presented with 
the highest degree of clearness and honesty. He 
had perfect confidence in the ultimate triumph of 
the truth; he was always willing to tie fast to it, 
according as he could see it, and then to bide time 
with it. This being a genuine faith and not mere 
lip-service, he used the same arguments to others 
which he used to himself, and staked his final suc- 
cess upon the probability that what had persuaded 
his mind would in time persuade also the minds of 
other intelligent men. It has been well said of 
him by an excellent judge : " He loved the truth, 


for the truth's sake. He would not argue from 
a false premise, or be deceived himseK, or deceive 
others, by a false conclusion. . . . He did not 
seek to say merely the thing which was best for 
that day's debate, but the thing which would stand 
the test of time, and square itself with eternal jus- 
tice. . . . His logic was severe and faultless. He 
did not resort to fallacy." ^ 

To return to the points made in the debate: 
Douglas laid down the "great principle of non- 
interference and non-intervention by Congress 
with slavery in the States and Territories alike; " 
which he assured his audience would enable us to 
"continue at peace with one another." In the 
same connection he endeavored to silver-coat for 
Northern palates the bitter piU of the Dred Scott 
decision, by declaring that the people of any State 
or Territory might withhold that protecting legis- 
lation, those "friendly police regulations," without 
which slavery could not exist. But this was, in- 
deed, a "lame, illogical, evasive answer," which 
enabled Lincoln to "secure an advantage in the 
national relations of the contest which he held to 
the end." 

Lincoln, in replying, agreed that "all the States 
have the right to do exactly as they please about 
all their domestic relations, including that of slav- 
ery." But he said that the proposition that slav- 
ery could not enter a new country without police 
regulations was historically false; and that the 
^ Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, i. 145. 


facts of the Dred Scott case itself showed that 
there was "vigor enough in slavery to plant itself 
in a new country even against unfriendly legisla- 
tion." Beyond this issue of historical fact, Doug- 
las had already taken and still dared to maintain 
a position which proved to be singularly ill chosen. 
The right to hold slaves as property in the Terri- 
tories had lately, to the infinite joy of the South, 
been declared by the Supreme Court to be guaran- 
teed by the Constitution; and now Douglas had 
the audacity to repeat that notion of his, so ab- 
horrent to all friends of slavery, — that this inval- 
uable right could be made practically worthless 
by unfriendly local legislation, or even by the 
negative hostility of withholding friendly legisla- 
tion! From the moment when this deadly sug- 
gestion fell from his ingenious lips, the Southern 
Democracy turned upon him with vindictive hate 
and marked him for destruction. He had also 
given himself into the hands of his avowed and 
natural enemies. The doctrine, said Mr. Lin- 
coln, is "no less than that a thing may lawfully 
be driven away from a place where it has a lawful 
right to be." "If you were elected members of 
the Legislature, what would be the first things 
you would have to do, before entering upon your 
duties ? Swear to support the Constitution of the 
United States. Suppose you believe, as Judge 
Douglas does, that the Constitution of the United 
States guarantees to your neighbor the right to 
hold slaves in that Territory, — that they are his 


property, — how can you clear your oaths, unless 
you give him such legislation as is necessary to 
enable him to enjoy that property? What do you 
understand by supporting the Constitution of a 
State, or of the United States ? Is it not to give 
such constitutional helps to the rights established 
by that Constitution as may be practically needed ? 
. . . And what I say here will hold with still 
more force against the Judge's doctrine of 'un- 
friendly legislation.' How could you, having 
sworn to support the Constitution, and believing 
it guaranteed the right to hold slaves in the Terri- 
tories, assist in legislation intended to defeat that 
right f " "Is not Congress itself under obligation 
to give legislative support to any right that is es- 
tablished under the United States Constitution ? " 
Upon what other principle do "many of us, who 
are opposed to slavery upon principle, give our 
acquiescence to a Fugitive Slave Law?" Does 
Douglas mean to say that a territorial legislature, 
"by passing unfriendly laws," can '"'' nullify a 
Constitutional right ? " He put to Douglas the 
direct and embarrassing query: "If the slave- 
holding citizens of a United States Territory 
should need and demand Congressional legislation 
for the protection of their slave property in such 
Territory, would you, as a member of Congress, 
vote for or against such legislation?" "Eepeat 
that," cried Douglas, ostentatiously; "I want to 
answer that question." But he never composed 
his reply. 


Another kindred question had already been put 
by Lincoln : " Can the people of a United States 
Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of 
any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery 
from its limits, prior to the formation of a State 
Constitution? " Friends advised him not to force 
this, as it seemed against the immediate policy of 
the present campaign. But it was never his way 
to subordinate his own deliberate opinion to the 
opinions of advisers ; and on this occasion he was 
merciless in pressing this question. A story has 
been very generally repeated that he told the pro- 
testers that, whatever might be the bearing on the 
senatorship, Douglas could not answer that ques- 
tion and be elected president of the United States 
in 1860. "I am killing larger game," he said; 
"the battle of 1860 is worth a hundred of this."^ 
A few legends of this kind are extant, which tend 
to indicate that Lincoln already had in mind the 
presidential nomination, and was fighting the 
present fight with an eye to that greater one in 
the near future. It is not easy to say how much 
credit should be given to such tales; they may 
not be wholly inventions, but a remark which is 
uttered with little thought may later easily take on 
a strong color in the light of subsequent develop- 

In presenting the Republican side of the ques- 

1 N. and H., ii. 159, 160, 163 ; Arnold, 151 ; Lamon, 415, 416, 
and see 406 ; Holland, 189 ; Wilson, Bise and Fall of the Slave 
Power, ii. 576 ; Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, i. 148. 


tion Lincoln seemed to feel a duty beyond that of 
merely out-arguing his opponent. He bore the 
weighty burden of a responsibility graver than 
personal success. He might prevail in the opin- 
ions of his fellow-citizens; without this instant 
triumph he might so present his cause that the 
jury of posterity would declare that the truth 
lay with him; he might even convince both the 
present and the coming generations; and though 
achieving all these triumphs, he might still fall 
far short of the peculiar and exacting require- 
ment of the occasion. For the winning of the 
senatorship was the insignificant part of what he 
had undertaken; his momentous charge was to 
maintain a grand moral crusade, to stimulate and 
to vindicate a great uprising in the cause of hu- 
manity and of justice. His full appreciation of 
this is entirely manifest in the tone of his speeches. 
They have an earnestness, a gravity, at times even 
a solemnity, unusual in such encounters in any era 
or before any audiences, but unprecedented "on 
the stump" before the uproarious gatherings of 
the West at that day. Repeatedly he stigmatized 
slavery as "a moral, a social, a political evil." 
Very impressively he denounced the positions of 
an opponent who "cared not whether slavery was 
voted down or voted up," who said that slavery 
was not to be differentiated from the many domes- 
tic institutions and daily affairs which civilized 
societies control by police regulations. He said 
that slavery could not be treated as "only equal 


to the cranberry laws of Indiana;" that slaves 
could not be put "upon a par with onions and po- 
tatoes;" that to Douglas he supposed that the in- 
stitution really "looked small," but that a great 
proportion of the American people regarded slav- 
ery as "a vast moral evil." "The real issue in 
this controversy — the one pressing upon every 
mind — is the sentiment on the part of one class 
that looks upon the institution of slavery as a 
lorong^ and of another class that does not look 
upon it as a wrong. . . . No man can logically 
say he does not care whether a wrong is voted up 
or voted down. He [Douglas] contends that what- 
ever community wants slaves has a right to have 
them. So they have, if it is not a wrong. But 
if it is a wrong, he cannot say people have a right 
to do wrong. He says that, upon the score of 
equality, slaves should be allowed to go into a new 
Territory, like other property. This is strictly 
logical if there is no difference between it and 
other property. . . . But if you insist that one is 
wrong and the other right, there is no use to insti- 
tute a comparison between right and wrong. . . . 
That is the real issue. That is the issue that will 
continue in this country when these poor tongues 
of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It 
is the eternal struggle between these two principles, 
right and wrong, throughout the world. They 
are the two principles that have stood face to face 
from the beginning of time, and wiU ever continue 
to struggle. The one is the common right of hu- 


manity, and the other the divine right of kings. 
It is the same principle in whatever shape it devel- 
ops itself. It is the same spirit that says: 'You 
work and toil and earn bread, and I '11 eat it.' " 
"I ask you if it is not a false philosophy? Is it 
not a false statesmanship that undertakes to build 
up a system of policy upon the basis of caring no- 
thing about the very thing that everyhody does care 
the most ahout f " 

We cannot leave these speeches without a word 
concerning their literary quality. In them we 
might have looked for vigor that would be a little 
uncouth, wit that would be often coarse, a logic 
generally sound but always clumsy, — in a word, 
tolerably good substance and very poor form. We 
are surprised, then, to find many and high excel- 
lences in art. As it is with Bacon's essays, so it 
is with these speeches : the more attentively they 
are read the more striking appears the closeness 
of their texture both in logic and in language. 
Clear thought is accurately expressed. Each sen- 
tence has its special errand, and each word its 
individual importance. There is never either too 
much or too little. The work is done with clean 
precision and no waste. Nowhere does one pause 
to seek a meaning or to recover a connection ; and 
an effort to make out a syllabus shows that the 
most condensed statement has already been used. 
There are scintillations of wit and humor, but they 
are not very numerous. When Lincoln was urged 
to adopt a more popular style, he replied: "The 


occasion is too serious; the issues are too grave. 
I do not seek applause, or to amuse the people, but 
to convince them." This spirit was upon him 
from the beginning to the end. Had he been ad- 
dressing a bench of judges, subject to a close limi- 
tation of minutes, he would have won credit by the 
combined economy and force which were displayed 
in these harangues to general assemblages. To 
speak of the lofty tone of these speeches comes 
dangerously near to the distasteful phraseology 
of extravagant laudation, than which nothing else 
can produce upon honest men a worse impression. 
Yet it is a truth visible to every reader that at the 
outset Lincoln raised the discussion to a very 
high plane, and held it there throughout. The 
truth which he had to sustain was so great that it 
was perfectly simple, and he had the good sense to 
utter it with appropriate simplicity. In no speech 
was there fervor or enthusiasm or rhetoric; he 
talked to the reason and the conscience of his au- 
ditors, not to their passions. Yet the depth of his 
feeling may be measured by the story that once in 
the canvass he said to a friend : " Sometimes, in 
the excitement of speaking, I seem to see the end 
of slavery. I feel that the time is soon coming 
when the sun shall shine, the rain fall, on no man 
who shall go forth to unrequited toil. How this 
will come, when it will come, by whom it will 
come, I cannot tell, — but that time will surely 
come."^ It is just appreciation, and not extrava- 

^ Arnold, 144. This writer speaks with discriminating praise 


gance, to say that the cheap and miserable little 
volume, now out of print, containing in bad news- 
paper type, "The Lincoln and Douglas Debates," ^ 
holds some of the masterpieces of oratory of all 
asfes and nations. 

The immediate result of the campaign was the 
triumph of Douglas, who had certainly made not 
only a very able and brilliant but a splendidly gal- 
lant fight, with Republicans assailing him in front 
and Administrationists in rear.^ Lincoln was 
disappointed. His feelings had been so deeply 
engaged, he had worked so strenuously, and the 
result had been so much in doubt, that defeat 
was trying. But he bore it with his wonted reso- 
lute equanimity. He said that he felt "like the 
boy that stumped his toe, — 'it hurt too bad to 
laugh, and he was too big to cry.' " Li fact, there 
were encouraging elements.^ The popular vote 
stood,^ Republicans, 126,084; Douglas Democrats, 

concerning Lincoln's oratory, p. 139. It is an illustration of Lin- 
coln's habit of adopting for permanent use any expression that 
pleased him, that this same phrase had been used by him in a 
speech made two years before this time. Holland, 151. 

^ Published in Columbus, in 1860, for campaign purposes, from 
copies furnished by Lincoln; see his letter to Central Exec. 
Comm., Dec. 19, 1859, on fly-leaf. 

^ Many tributes haTe been paid to Douglas by writers who op- 
pose his opinions; e. g., Arnold says: "There is, on the whole, 
hardly any greater personal triumph in the history of American 
politics than his reelection,' ' pp. 149, 150 ; Blaine, Twenty Years 
of Congress, i. 149. 

^ See Lincoln's letter to Judd, quoted N. and H., ii. 167 ; also 
Jbid. 169. 

* Raymond, 76. 


121,940; Lecompton Democrats, 5,091. But the 
apportionment of districts was sucli that the legis- 
lature contained a majority for Douglas.^ So the 
prestige of victory seemed separated from its 
fruits; for the nation, attentively watching this 
duel, saw that the new man had convinced upwards 
of four thousand voters more than had the great 
leader of the Democracy. Douglas is reported to 
have said that, during his sixteen years in Con- 
gress, he had found no man in the Senate whom 
he would not rather encounter in debate than Lin- 
coln. If it was true that Lincoln was already 
dreaming of the presidency, he was a sufficiently 
shrewd politician to see that his prospects were 
greatly improved by this campaign. He had 
worked hard for what he had gained ; he had been 
travelling incessantly to and fro and delivering 
speeches in unbroken succession during about one 
himdred of the hot days of the Western summer, 
and speeches not of a commonplace kind, but 
which severely taxed the speaker. After all was 
over, he was asked by the State Committee to con- 
tribute to the campaign purse! He replied: "I 
am willing to pay according to my ability, but I 
am the poorest hand living to get others to pay. 
I have been on expense so long, without earning 
anything, that I am absolutely without money now 
for even household expenses. Still, if you can put 
in 1250 for me, ... I will allow it when you and 

^ The Senate showed 14 Democrats, 11 Republicans; the 
House, 40 Democrats, 35 Republicans. 


I settle the private matter between us. This, 
with what I have already paid, . . . will exceed 
my subscription of $500. This, too, is exclusive 
of my ordinary expenses during the campaign, all 
of which being added to my loss of time and busi- 
ness bears pretty heavily upon one no better ofE 
than I am. . . . You are feeling badly; 'and this, 
too, shall pass away; ' never fear." 

The platform which, with such precision and 
painstaking, Lincoln had constructed for himself 
was made by him even more ample and more strong 
by a few speeches delivered in the interval between 
the close of this great campaign and his nomina- 
tion by the Republicans for the presidency. In 
Ohio an important canvass for the governorship 
took place, and Douglas went there, and made 
speeches filled with allusions to Lincoln and the 
recent Illinois campaign. Even without this pro- 
vocation Lincoln knew, by keen instinct, that 
where Douglas was there he should be also. In 
no other way had he yet appeared to such advan- 
tage as in encoimtering "the Little Giant." To 
Ohio, accordingly, he hastened, and spoke at 
Columbus and at Cincinnati. ^ To the citizens of 
the latter place he said : " This is the first time in 
my life that I have appeared before an audience 
in so great a city as this. I therefore make this 
appearance under some degree of embarrassment." 
There was little novelty in substance, but much 

1 In September, 1859. Tliese are included in the volume of 
The Lincoln and Douglas Debates, printed at Columbus, 1860. 


in treatment. Thus, at Cincinnati, he imagined 
himself addressing Kentuckians, and showed them 
that their next nominee for the presidency ought 
to be his "distinguished friend. Judge Douglas; " 
for "in aU that there is a difference between you 
and him, I understand he is sincerely for you, and 
more wisely for you than you are for yourselves." 
Through him alone pro-slavery men retained any 
hold upon the free States of the North; and in 
those States "in every possible way he can, he 
constantly moulds the public opinion to your ends." 
Ingeniously but fairly he sketched Douglas as the 
most efficient among the pro-slavery leaders. Per- 
haps the clever and truthful picture may have led 
Mr. Greeley and some other gentlemen at the East 
to suspect that they had been inconsiderate in their 
choice between the Western rivals; and perhaps, 
also, Lincoln, while addressing imaginary Ken- 
tuckians, had before his inner eye some Eastern 
auditors. For at the time he did not know that 
his voice would ever be heard at any point nearer 
to their ears than the hall in which he then stood. 
Within a few weeks, however, this unlooked-for 
good fortune befell. In October, 1859, he was 
invited to speak in the following winter in New 
York. That the anti-slavery men of that city 
wished to test him by personal observation signified 
that his reputation was national, and that the high- 
est aspirations were, therefore, not altogether pre- 
siunptuous. He accepted gladly, and immediately 
began to prepare an address which probably cost 


him more labor than any other speech which he 
ever made. He foimd time, however, in December 
to make a journey through Kansas, where he de- 
livered several speeches, which have not been pre- 
served but are described as "repetitions of those 
previously made in Illinois." Lamon tells us that 
the journey was an "ovation," and that "wherever 
Lincoln went, he was met by vast assemblages of 
people." The population of this agricultural State 
was hardly in a condition to furnish "vast assem- 
blages " at numerous points, but doubtless the vis- 
itor received gratifying assurance that upon this 
battle-ground of slavery and anti-slavery the win- 
ning party warmly appreciated his advocacy of 
their cause. 

On Saturday, February 25, 1860, Lincoln ar- 
rived in New York. On Monday his hosts "found 
him dressed in a sleek and shining suit of new 
black, covered with very apparent creases and 
wrinkles, acquired by being packed too closely and 
too long in his little valise. He felt uneasy in his 
new clothes and a strange place." Certainly no- 
thing in his previous experience had prepared him 
to meet with entire indifference an audience of 
metropolitan critics ; indeed, had the surroundings 
been more familiar, he had enough at stake to tax 
his equanimity when William Cullen Bryant intro- 
duced him simply as "an eminent citizen of the 
West, hitherto known to you only by reputation." 
Probably the first impression made upon those 
auditors by the ungainly Westerner in his outland- 


ish garb were not the same which they carried 
home with them a little later. The speech was so 
condensed that a sketch of it is not possible. For- 
tunately it had the excellent quality of steadily 
expanding in interest and improving to the end. 

Of the Dred Scott case he cleverly said that the 
Courts had decided it "m a sort of way; ^^ but, 
after all, the decision was "mainly based upon a 
mistaken statement of fact, — the statement in the 
opinion that 'the right of property in a slave is 
distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitu- 

In closing, he begged the Republicans, in behalf 
of peace and harmony, to "do nothing through 
passion and ill -temper; " but he immediately went 
on to show the antagonism between Republican 
opinion and Democratic opinion with a distinct- 
ness which left no hope of harmony, and very lit- 
tle hope of peace. To satisfy the Southerners, he 
said, we must "cease to call slavery wrong ^ and 
join them in calling it right. And this must be 
done thoroughly, — done in acts as well as in 
words. . . . We must arrest and return their 
fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must 
pull down our free-state Constitutions. ... If 
slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and consti- 
tutions against it are themselves wrong, and should 
be silenced and swept away. If it is right, we 
cannot object to its nationality, its universality; 
if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its 
extension, its enlargement. All they ask we could 


readily grant, if we thought slavery right ; all we 
ask they could as readily grant, if they thought it 
wrong. Their thinking it right and our thinking 
it wrong is the precise fact upon which depends 
the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they 
do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recog- 
nition, as being right ; but thinking it wrong, as 
we do, can we yield to them ? . . . Wrong as we 
think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone 
where it is, because that much is due to the neces- 
sity arising from its actual presence in the nation; 
but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow 
it to spread into the national Territories, and to 
overrun us here in these free States? If our sense 
of duty forbids this ... let us be diverted by no 
sophistical contrivances, such as groping for some 
middle ground between the right and the wrong, 
vain as the search for a man who should be neither 
a living man nor a dead man ; such as a policy of 
'don't care ' on a question about which all true 
men do care; such as Union appeals beseeching 
true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing 
the divine rule and calling not the sinners but the 
righteous to repentance." 

The next morning the best newspapers gave full 
reports of the speech, with compliments. The 
columns of the "Evening Post" were generously 
declared to be "indefinitely elastic " for such utter- 
ances; and the "Tribime" expressed commenda- 
tion wholly out of accord with the recent notions 
of its editor. The rough fellow from the crude 


West had made a powerful impression upon the 
cultivated gentlemen of the East. 

From New York Lincoln went to Massachusetts, 
Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut. 
In this last - named State he delivered speeches 
which are said to have contributed largely to the 
Republican success in the closely contested election 
then at hand. In Manchester it was noticed that 
"He did not abuse the South, the administration, 
or the Democrats, or indulge in any personalities, 
with the exception of a few hits at Douglas's no- 
tions." ^ 

These speeches of 1858, 1859, and 1860, have a 
very great value as contributions to history. Dur- 
ing that period every dweller in the United States 
was hotly concerned about this absorbing question 
of slavery, advancing his own views, weighing or 
encountering the arguments of others, quarrelling, 
perhaps, with his oldest friends and his nearest 
kindred, — for about this matter men easily quar- 
relled and rarely compromised. Every man who 
fancied that he could speak in public got upon 
some platform in city, town, or village, and secured 
an audience by his topic if not by his ability ; every 
one who thought that he could write found some 
way to print what he had to say upon a subject of 
which readers never tired; and for whatever pur- 
pose two or three men were gathered together, they 
were not likely to separate without a few words 
about North and South, pro-slavery and anti-slav- 

^ The Mirror, quoted by Lamon, 442, 


ery. Never was any matter more harried and ran- 
sacked by disputation. Now to all the speaking 
and writing of the Republicans Lincoln's condensed 
speeches were what a syllabus is to an elaborate 
discourse, what a lawyer's brief is to his verbal 
argument. Perhaps they may better be likened to 
an anti-slavery gospel; as the New Testament is 
supposed to cover the whole ground of Christian 
doctrines and Christian ethics, so that theologians 
and preachers innumerable have only been able to 
make elaborations or glosses upon the original text, 
so Lincoln's speeches contain the whole basis of 
the anti-slavery cause as maintained by the Eepub- 
lican party. They also set forth a considerable 
part of the Southern position, doubtless as fairly 
as the machinations of the Devil are set forth in 
Holy Writ. They only rather gingerly refrain 
from speaking of the small body of ultra- Aboli- 
tionists, — for while Lincoln was far from agreeing 
with these zealots, he felt that it was undesirable 
to widen by any excavation upon his side the chasm 
between them and the Republicans. So the fact 
is that the whole doctrine of Republicanism, as 
it existed during the political campaign which re- 
sulted in the election of Lincoln, also all the his- 
torical facts supporting that doctrine, were clearly 
and accurately stated in these speeches. Specific 
points were more elaborated by other persons; but 
every seed was to be foimd in this granary. 

This being the case, it is worth noticing that 
both Lincoln and Douglas confined their dispu- 


tation closely to the slavery question. Disunion 
and secession were words familiar in every ear, 
yet Lincoln referred to these things only twice 
or thrice, and incidentally, while Douglas ignored 
them. This fact is fraught with meaning. Amer- 
ican writers and American readers have always 
met upon the tacit understanding that the Union 
was the chief cause of, and the best justification 
for, the war. An age may come when historians, 
treating our history as we treat that of Greece, 
stirred by no emotion at the sight of the "Stars 
and Stripes," moved by no patriotism at the name 
of the United States of America, will seek a deeper 
philosophy to explain this obstinate, bloody, costly 
struggle. Such writers may say, that a rich, civil- 
ized multitude of human beings, possessors of the 
quarter of a continent, believing it best for their 
interests to set up an independent government for 
themselves, fell back upon the right of revolution, 
though they chose not to call it by that name. 
Now even if it be possible to go so far as to say 
that every nation has always a right to preserve by 
force, if it can, its own integrity, certainly it can- 
not be stated as a further truth that no portion 
of a nation can ever be justified in endeavoring 
to obtain an independent national existence; no 
citizen of this country can admit this, but must 
say that such an endeavor is justifiable or not jus- 
tifiable according as its cause and basis are right 
or wrong. Far down, then, at the very bottom 
lay the question whether the Southerners had a 


sufficient cause upon which to base a revolution. 
Now this question was hardly conclusively an- 
swered by the perfectly true statement that the 
North had not interfered with Southern rights. 
Southerners might admit this, and still believe 
that their welfare could be best subserved by a 
government wholly their own. So the very bot- 
tom question of all still remained : Was the South 
endeavoring to establish a government of its own 
for a justifiable reason and a right purpose ? Now 
the avowed purpose was to establish on an endur- 
ing foundation a permanent slave empire ; and the 
declared reason was, that slavery was not safe 
within the Union. Underneath the question of 
the Union therefore lay, logically, the question of 

Lincoln and the other Republican leaders said 
that, if slavery extension was prevented, then 
slavery was in the way of extinction. If the 
assertion was true, it pretty clearly followed that 
the South could retain slavery only by indepen- 
dence and a complete imperial control within the 
limits of its own homogeneous nationality; for 
undeniably the preponderant northern mass was 
becoming firmly resolved that slavery should not 
be extended, however it might be tolerated within 
its present limits. So stiU, by anti-slavery state- 
ment itself, the ultimate question was: whether 
or not the preservation of slavery was a right and 
sufficient cause or purpose for establishing an 
independent nationality. Lincoln, therefore, went 
direct to the logical heart of the contention, when 


he said that the real dispute was whether slavery- 
was a right thing or a wrong thing. If slavery 
was a right thing, a Union, conducted upon a policy 
which was believed to doom it to "ultimate ex- 
tinction " was not a right thing. But if slavery 
was a wrong thing, a revolution undertaken with 
the purpose of making it perpetual was also a 
wrong thing. Therefore, from beginning to end 
Lincoln talked about slavery. By so doing he did 
what he could to give to the war a character far 
higher even than a war of patriotism, for he ex- 
tended its meaning far beyond the age and the 
country of its occurrence, and made of it not a war 
for the United States alone, but a war for hu- 
manity, a war for ages and peoples yet to come. 
In like manner, he himself also gained the right to 
be regarded as much more than a great party 
leader, even more than a great patriot; for he be- 
came a champion of mankind and the defender of 
the chief right of man. I do not mean to say that 
he saw these things in this light at the moment, or 
that he accurately formulated the precise relation- 
ship and fundamental significance of all that was 
then in process of saying and doing. Time must 
elapse, and distance must enable one to get a com- 
prehensive view, before the philosophy of an era 
like that of the civil war becomes intelligible. 
But the philosophy is not the less correct because 
those who were framing it piece by piece did not 
at any one moment project before their mental 
vision the whole in its finished proportions and re- 



Mr. J. W. Fell, a politician of Pennsylvania, 
says that after the debates of 1858 he urged Lin- 
coln to seek the Republican nomination for the 
presidency in 1860. Lincoln, however, replied 
curtly that men like Seward and Chase were enti- 
tled to take precedence, and that no such "good 
luck " was in store for him. In March, 1859, he 
wrote to another person : " In regard to the other 
matter that you speak of, I beg that you will not 
give it further mention. I do not think I am 
fit for the presidency." He said the same to the 
editor of the "Central Illinois Gazette;" but this 
gentleman "brought him out in the issue of May 
4," and "thence the movement spread rapidly and 
strongly."! In the winter of 1859-60 sundry 
"intimate friends," active politicians of lUinois, 
pressed him to consent to be mentioned as a can- 
didate. He considered the matter over night and 
then gave them the desired permission, at the same 
time saying that he would not accept the vice- 

Being now fairly started in the race, he used 

1 Lamon, 422. 


all his well-known skill as a politician to forward 
his campaign, though nothing derogatory is to 
be inferred from these words as to his conduct 
or methods. February 9, 1860, he wrote to Mr. 
Judd: "I am not in a position where it would 
hurt much for me not to be nominated on the na- 
tional ticket; but I am where it would hurt some 
for me not to get the Illinois delegates. . . . Can 
you help me a little in this matter at your end of 
the vineyard?" This point of the allegiance of 
his own State was soon made right. The Kepub- 
lican State Convention met in the "Wigwam" at 
Decatur, May 9 and 10, 1860. Governor Oglesby, 
who presided, suggested that a distinguished citi- 
zen, whom Illinois delighted to honor, was pres- 
ent, and that he should be invited to a place on 
the stand ; and at once, amid a tumult of applause, 
Lincoln was lifted over the heads of the crowd to 
the platform. John Hanks then theatrically en- 
tered, bearing a couple of fence rails, and a flag 
with the legend that they were from a "lot made 
by Abraham Lincoln and John Hanks in the 
Sangamon Bottom, in the year 1830." The sym- 
pathetic roar rose again. Then Lincoln made a 
"speech," appropriate to the occasion. At last, 
attention was given to business, and the Convention 
resolved that Abraham Lincoln was the first choice 
of the Republican party of Illinois for the presi- 
dency, and instructed their delegates to the nomi- 
nating convention "to use all honorable means to 
secure his nomination, and to cast the vote of the 
State as a unit for him." 


With the opening of the spring of 1860 the sev- 
eral parties began the campaign in earnest. The 
Democratic Convention met first, at Charleston, 
April 23 ; and immediately the line of disruption 
opened. Upon the one side stood Douglas, with 
the moderate men and nearly all the Northern 
delegates, while against him were the advocates 
of extreme Southern doctrines, supported by the 
administration and by most of the delegates from 
the "Cotton States." The majority of the com- 
mittee appointed to draft the platform were anti- 
Douglas men ; but their report was rejected, and 
that offered by the pro-Douglas minority was sub- 
stituted, 165 yeas to 138 nays.^ Thereupon the 
delegations of Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and 
Texas, and sundry delegates from other States, 
withdrew from the Convention,^ taking away 45 
votes out of a total of 303. Those who remained 
declared the vote of two thirds of a full Conven- 
tion, i. e., 202 votes, to be necessary for a choice. 
Then during three days fifty-seven ballots were 
cast, Douglas being always far in the lead, but 
never polling more than 152^ votes. At last, on 
May 3, an adjournment was had until June 18, 
at Baltimore. At this second meetiner contestino- 

1 The majority report was supported by 15 slave States and 2 
free States, casting 127 electoral votes ; the minority report was 
supported by 15 free States, casting 176 electoral votes. N. and H. 
ii. 234. 

- This action was soon afterward approved in a manifesto sioned 
by Jefferson Davis, Toombs, Iverson, SlideU, Benjamin, Mason 
and others. Ibid. 245. 


delegations appeared, and the decisions were uni- 
formly in favor of the Douglas men, which pro- 
voked another secession of the extremist Southern 
men. A ballot showed 173^ votes for Douglas 
out of a total of 191^; the total was less than two 
thirds of the full number of the original Conven- 
tion, and therefore it was decided that any person 
receiving two thirds of the votes cast by the dele- 
gates present should be deemed the nominee. The 
next ballot gave Douglas 181^. Herschel V. 
Johnson of Georgia was nominated for vice-presi- 

On June 28, also at Baltimore, there came to- 
gether a collection composed of original seceders 
at Charleston, and of some who had been rejected 
and others who had seceded at Baltimore. Very 
few Northern men were present, and the body in 
fact represented the Southern wing of the Demo- 
cracy. Having, like its competitor, the merit of 
knowing its own mind, it promptly nominated 
John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky and Joseph 
Lane of Oregon, and adopted the radical platform 
which had been reported at Charleston. 

These doings opened, so that it could never be 
closed, that seam of which the thread had long 
been visible athwart the surface of the old Demo- 
cratic party. The great record of discipline and 
of triumph, which the party had made when imited 
beneath the dominion of imperious leaders, was 
over, and forever. Those questions which Lin- 
coln obstinately and against advice had insisted 


upon pushing in 1858 had forced this disastrous 
development of irreconcilable differences. The 
answers, which Douglas could not shirk, had alien- 
ated the most implacable of men, the dictators 
of the Southern Democracy. His " looking-both- 
ways " theory would not fit with their policy, and 
their policy was and must be immutable ; modifi- 
cation was in itself defeat. On the other hand, 
what he said constituted the doctrine to which the 
mass of the Northern Democracy firmly held. So 
now, although Kepublicans admitted that it was 
"morally certain" that the Democratic party, 
holding together, could carry the election, ^ yet 
these men from the Cotton States could not take 
victory and Douglas together. ^ It had actually 
come to this, that in spite of all that Douglas had 
done for the slave-holders, they now marked him 
for destruction at any cost. Many also believe 
that they had another motive ; that they had ma- 
tured their plans for secession; and that they did 
not mean to have the scheme disturbed or post- 
poned by an ostensibly Democratic triumph in the 
shape of the election of Douglas. 

In May the convention of the Constitutional 
Union party met, also at Baltimore. This organ- 
ization was a sudden outgrowth designed only to 
meet the present emergency. Its whole political 
doctrine lay in the opening words of the one reso- 
lution which constituted its platform: "That it is 
both the part of patriotism and of duty to recog- 
1 Greeley's Amer. Conflict, i. 326. ^ jjjj. i. 306, 307. 


nize no political principle other than the Constitu- 
tion of the country, the union of the States, and 
the enforcement of the laws." This party gath- 
ered nearly all the peaceable elements of the com- 
munity; it assumed a deprecatory attitude between 
angry contestants, and of course received the abuse 
and contempt of both; it was devoid of combative 
force, yet had some numerical strength. The Re- 
publicans especially mocked at these "trimmers," 
as if their only platform was moral cowardice, 
which, however, was an unfair statement of their 
position. The party died, of necessity, upon the 
day when Lincoln was elected, and its members 
were then distributed between the Republicans, 
the Secessionists, and the Copperheads. John 
Bell, of Tennessee, the candidate for the presi- 
dency, joined the Confederacy; Edward Everett, 
of Massachusetts, the candidate for the vice-presi- 
dency, became a Republican. The party never 
had a hope of electing its men ; but its existence 
increased the chance of throwing the election into 
Congress; and this hope inspired exertions far 
beyond what its own prospects warranted. 

On May 16 the Republican Convention came 
together at Chicago, where the great "Wigwam" 
had been built to hold 10,000 persons. The in- 
tense interest with which its action was watched 
indicated the popular belief that probably it would 
name the next president of the United States. 
Many candidates were named, chiefly Seward, Lin- 
coln, Chase, Cameron, Edward Bates of Missouri, 


and William L. Dayton of New Jersey. Thurlow 
Weed was Seward's lieutenant. Horace Greeley, 
chiefly bent upon the defeat of Seward, would 
have liked to achieve it by the success of Bates. 
David Davis, aided by Judge Logan and a band 
of personal friends from Illinois, was manager for 
Lincoln. Primarily the contest lay between Sew- 
ard and Lincoln, and only a dead - lock between 
these two could give a chance to some one of the 
others. But Seward's friends hoped, and Lin- 
coln's friends dreaded, that the New Yorker might 
win by a rush on the first ballot. George Ash- 
mun of Massachusetts presided. With little 
discussion a platform was adopted, long and ill- 
written, overloaded with adjectives and rhetoric, 
sacrificing dignity to the supreme pleasure of 
abusing the Democracy, but honest in stating 
Republican doctrines, and clearly displaying the 
temper of an earnest, aggressive party, hot for the 
fight and confident of victory. The vote of accept- 
ance was greeted with such a cheering that "a 
herd of buffaloes or lions could not have made a 
more tremendous roaring." 

The details of the brief but sharp contest for 
the nomination are not altogether gratifying. The 
partisans of Seward set about winning votes by 
much parading in the streets with banners and 
music, and by out-yelling all competitors within 
the walls of the convention. For this intelligent 
purpose they had engaged Tom Hyer, the prize 
fighter, with a gang of roughs, to hold possession 


of the Wigwam, and to howl illimitably at appro- 
priate moments. But they had undertaken a diffi- 
cult task in trying to outdo the great West, in one 
of its own cities, at a game of this kind. The 
Lincoln leaders in their turn secured a couple of 
stentorian yellers (one of them a Democrat), in- 
structed them carefully, and then filled the Wig- 
wam full actually at daybreak, while the Seward 
men were marching ; so in the next yelling match 
the West won magnificently. How great was the 
real efficiency of these tactics in affecting the 
choice of the ruler of a great nation commonly 
accounted intelligent, it is difficult to say with 
accuracy; but it is certain that the expert mana- 
gers spared no pains about this scenic business of 

Meanwhile other work, entirely quiet, was be- 
ing done elsewhere. The objection to Seward was 
that he was too radical, too far in advance of the 
party. The Bates following were pushing their 
candidate as a moderate man, who would be ac- 
ceptable to "Union men." But Bates's chance 
was small, and any tendency towards a moderate 
candidate was likely to carry his friends to Lin- 
coln rather than to Seward ; for Lincoln was gen- 
erally supposed, however erroneously,^ to be more 
remote from Abolitionism than Seward was. To 
counteract this, a Seward delegate telegraphed to 

^ Mr. Blaine says that Lincoln " was chosen in spite of expres- 
sions far more radical than those of Mr. Seward." Twenty Years 
of Congress, i, 169. 



the Bates men at St. Louis that Lincoln was as 
radical as Seward. Lincoln, at Springfield, saw 
this dispatch, and at once wrote a message to David 
Davis : " Lincoln agrees with Seward in his irre- 
pressible-conflict idea, and in Negro Equality; but 
he is opposed to Seward's Higher Law. Make no 
contracts that will hind me." He underscored the 
last sentence ; but when his managers saw it, they 
recognized that such independence did not accord 
with the situation, and so they set it aside. 
The first vote was : — 

Whole number .... 
Necessary for choice 
William H. Seward, of New York 
Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois 
Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania . 
Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio . 
Edward Bates, of Missouri . 
William L. Dayton, of New Jersey 
John McLean, of Ohio 
Jacob Collamer, of Vermont 
Scattering . . . ^ . 








The fact was, and Lincoln's friends perfectly 
understood it, that Cameron held that peculiar 
kind of power which gave him no real prospect of 
success, yet had a considerable saleable value. 
Could they refrain from trying the market ? They 
asked the owners of the 50i Cameron votes what 
was their price. The owners said : The Treasury 
Department. Lincoln's friends declared this 
extravagant. Then they all chaffered. Finally 


Cameron's men took a place in the Cabinet, with- 
out further specification. Lamon says that an- 
other smaller contract was made with the friends 
of Caleb B. Smith. Then the Lincoln managers 
rested in a pleasing sense of security. 

The second ballot showed slight changes : — 

Seward . . 184i Bates . . .35 

Lincoln . . 181 Dayton . . 10 

Cameron . . 2 McLean ... 8 

Chase . . 42^ Scattering . . 2 

Upon the third ballot delivery was made of 
what Mr. Davis had bought. That epidemic fore- 
knowledge, which sometimes so unaccountably fore- 
runs an event, told the convention that the decision 
was at hand. A dead silence reigned save for the 
click of the telegraphic instruments and the low 
scratching of hundreds of pencils checking off the 
votes as the roll was called. Those who were 
keeping the tally saw that it stood : — 


. 180 Dayton . 

. 1 


231^ McLean 


Chase = 

24:^ Scattering 

. 1 



Cameron was out of the race; Lincoln was 
within 1^ votes of the goal. Before the count 
could be announced, a delegate from Ohio trans- 
ferred four votes to Lincoln. This settled the 
matter; and then other delegations followed, till 
Lincoln's score rose to 354. At once the "enthu- 
siasm" of 10,000 men again reduced to insignifi- 


cance a "herd of buffaloes or lions." When at 
last quiet was restored, William M. Evarts, who 
had led for Seward, offered the usual motion to 
make the nomination of Abraham Lincoln unani- 
mous. It was done. Again the "tremendous 
roaring " arose. Later in the day the convention 
nominated Hannibal Hamlin ^ of Maine, on the 
second ballot, by 367 votes, for the vice-presi- 
dency. Then for many hours, till exhaustion 
brought rest, Chicago was given over to the wonted 
follies; cannon boomed, music resounded, and 
streets and bar-rooms were filled with the howlinsr 
and drinking crowds of the intelligent promoters 
of one of the great moral crusades of the himian 

Lamon says that the committee deputed to wait 
upon Lincoln at Springfield found him "sad and 
dejected. The reaction from excessive joy to deep 
despondency — a process peculiar to his constitu- 
tion — had already set in." 2 His remarks to 
these gentlemen were brief and colorless. His 
letter afterward was little more than a simple ac- 
ceptance of the platform. 

Since white men first landed on this continent, 
the selection of Washington to lead the army of 
the Revolution is the only event to be compared in 

1 " lu strong common-sense, in sagacity and sound judgment, 
in rugged integrity of character, Mr. Hamlin has had no superior 
among public men." Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, i. 170. 

" Lamon, 453. 


good fortune with this nomination of Abraham 
Lincobi. Yet the convention deserved no credit 
for its action. It did not know the true ratio be- 
tween Seward and Lincoln, which only the future 
was to make plain. By all that it did know, it 
ought to have given the honor to Seward, who 
merited it by the high offices which he had held 
with distinction and without blemish, by the lead- 
ership which he had acquired in the party through 
long-continued constancy and courage, by the force 
and clearness with which he had maintained its 
principles, by his experience and supposed natural 
aptitude in the higher walks of statesmanship. 
Yet actually by reason of these very qualifica- 
tions ^ it was now admitted that the all-important 
"October States" of Indiana and Pennsylvania 
could not be carried by the Republicans, if Seward 
were nominated; while Greeley, sitting in the con- 
vention as a substitute for a delegate from Oregon, 
cast as much of the weight of New York as he 
could lift into the anti-Seward scale. In plain 
fact, the convention, by its choice, paid no com- 
pliment either to Lincoln or to the voters of the 
party. They took him because he was "availa- 
ble," and the reason that he was "available" lay 
not in any popular appreciation of his merits, but 
in the contrary truth: — that the mass of people 
could place no intelligent estimate upon him at all, 

^ McClure adds, or rather mentions as the chief cause, Seward's 
position on the pnblic-school question in New York. Lincoln and 
Men of War-Times, 28, 29. 


either for good or for ill. Outside of Illinois a few 
men, who had studied his speeches, esteemed him 
an able man in debate ; more had a vague notion 
of him as an effective stump speaker of the West; 
far the greatest number had to find out about 
him.^ In a word, Mr. Lincoln gained the nom- 
ination because Mr. Seward had been "too con- 
spicuous," whereas he himself was so little known 
that it was possible for Wendell Phillips to in- 
quire indignantly: "Who is this huckster in poli- 
tics ? Who is this county court advocate ? " ^ j^o^ 
these singular reasons he was the most "available " 
candidate who could be offered before the citizens 
of the United States ! 

It cannot be said that the nomination was re- 
ceived with much satisfaction. "Honest old Abe, 
the rail-splitter! " might sound well in the ear of 
the masses; but the Republican party was laden 
with the burden of an immense responsibility, and 
the men who did its thinking could not reasonably 
feel certain that rail-splitting was an altogether 
satisfactory training for the leader in such an era 
as was now at hand. Nevertheless, nearly ^ all came 
to the work of the campaign with as much zeal as if 
they had surely known the full value of their candi- 
date. Shutting their minds against doubts, they 
made the most spirited and energetic canvass which 

^ " To the country at large he was an obscure, not to say an un- 
known man." Life of W- L. Garrison, by his children, iii. 503. 
2 Life of W. L. Garrison, by his children, iii. 503. 
^ See remarks of McClurCj Lincoln and Men of War-Times, 

28, 29. 


has ever taken place in the country. The organi- 
zation of the "Wide- Awake" clubs was an effec- 
tive success.^ None who saw will ever forget the 
spectacle presented by these processions wherein 
many thousands of men, singing the campaign 
songs, clad in uniform capes of red or white oil- 
cloth, each with a flaming torch or a colored lan- 
tern, marched nightly in every city and town of 
the North, in apparently endless numbers and with 
military precision, making the streets a brilliant 
river of variously tinted flame. Torchlight pa- 
rades have become mere conventional affairs since 
those days, when there was a spirit in them which 
nothing has ever stirred more lately. They were 
a good preparation for the more serious marching 
and severer drill which were soon to come, though 
the Republicans scoffed at all anticipations of such 
a future, and sneered at the timid ones who 
croaked of war and bloodshed. 

Almost from the beginning it was highly prob- 
able that the Republicans would win, and it was 
substantially certain that none of their competitors 
could do so. The only contrary chance was that 
no election might be made by the people, and that 
it might be thrown into Congress. Douglas with 
his wonted spirit made a vigorous fight, travelling 
to and fro, speaking constantly in the North and 
a few times in the South, but defiant rather than 
conciliatory in tone. He did not show one whit 
the less energy because it was obvious that he 
1 See N. and H., ii. 284 n. 


waged a contest without hope. If there were any- 
road to Democratic success, which it now seems 
that there was not, it lay in uniting the sundered 
party. An attempt was made to arrange that 
whichever Democratic candidate should ultimately 
display the greater strength should receive the full 
support of the party. Projects for a fusion ticket 
met with some success in New York. In Pennsyl- 
vania like schemes were imperfectly successful. 
In other Northern States they were received with 
scant favor. Except some followers of BeU and 
Everett, men were in no temper for compromise. 
At the South fusion was not even attempted ; the 
Breckenridge men would not hear of it ; the voters 
in that section were controlled by leaders, and 
these leaders probably had a very distinct policy, 
which would be seriously interfered with by the 
triumph of the Douglas ticket. 

The chief anxiety of Lincoln and the Eepubli- 
can leaders was lest some voters, who disagreed 
with them only on less important issues, might stay 
away from the poUs. AU the platforms, except 
that of the Constitutional Union party, touched 
upon other topics besides the question of slavery 
in the Territories ; the tariff, native Americanism, 
acquisition of Cuba, a transcontinental railway, 
public lands, internal improvements, all found 
mention. The Know-Nothing party still by occa- 
sional twitchings showed that life had not quite 
taken flight, and endeavors were made to induce 


Lincoln to express his views. But he evaded it.^ 
For above all else he wished to avoid the stirring 
of any dissension upon side issues or minor points ; 
his hope was to see all opponents of the extension 
of slavery put aside for a while all other matters, 
refrain from discussing troublesome details, and 
unite for the one broad end of putting slavery 
where "the fathers " had left it, so that the "pub- 
lic mind should rest in the belief that it was in 
the way of ultimate extinction." He felt it to be 
fair and right that he should receive the votes of 
all anti-slavery men; and ultimately he did, with 
the exception only of the thorough-going Aboli- 

It was not so very long since he had spoken of 
the Abolitionist leaders as "friends; " but they did 
not reciprocate the feeling, nor indeed could rea- 
sonably be expected to do so, or to vote the Re- 
publican ticket. They were even less willing to 
vote it with Lincoln at the head of it than if Sew- 
ard had been there. ^ But Republicanism itself 
under any leader was distinctly at odds with their 
views; for when they said '''' aholition " they meant 
accurately what they said, and abolition certainly 
was impossible under the Constitution. The Re- 
publicans, and Lincoln personally, with equal di- 
rectness acknowledged the supremacy of the Con- 

1 See letter of May 17, 1859, tb Dr. Canisius, Holland, 196; N. 
and H., ii. 181, 

2 Life of W. L. Garrison, by his children, iii. 502. 


stitution. Lincoln, therefore, plainly asserted a 
policy which the Abolitionists equally plainly con- 
demned. In their eyes to be a party to a contract 
maintaining slavery throughout a third of a conti- 
nent was only a trifle less criminal than aiding to 
extend it over another third. Yet it should be 
said that the Abolitionists were not all of one 
mind, and some voted the Republican ticket as 
being at least a step in the right direction. Joshua 
R. Giddings was a member of the Republican Con- 
vention which nominated Lincoln. But Wendell 
PhiUips, always an extremist among extremists, 
published an article entitled "Abraham Lincoln, 
the Slave-hound of Illinois," whereof the key- 
note was struck in this introductory sentence: 
"We gibbet a Northern hound to-day, side by 
side with the infamous Mason of Virginia." Mr. 
Garrison, a man of far larger and sounder intel- 
lectual powers than belonged to Phillips, did not 
fancy this sort of diatribe, though months 
earlier he had accused the Republican party of 
"slavish subserviency to the Union," and declared 
it to be "still insanely engaged in glorifying the 
Union, and pledging itself to frown upon all at- 
tempts to dissolve it." Undeniably men who held 
these views could not honestly vote for Mr. Lin- 

The popular vote and the electoral vote were as 
follows : ^ — 

1 This table is taken from Stanwood's History of Presidential 




Maine . . . 
New Hampshire 
Vermont . . 
Rhode Island . 
Connecticut . 
New York . . 
New Jersey 
Pennsylvania . 
Delaware . . 
Maryland . . 
Virginia . . . 
North Carolina 
South Carolina * 
Georgia . . . 
Florida . . . 
Alabama . . 
Mississippi . . 
Louisiana . . 
Texas . . . 
Arkansas . . 
Missouri . . 
Tennessee . . 
Kentucky . . 
Ohio .... 
Michigan . . 
Indiana . . . 
Illinois . . . 
Wisconsin . . 
Minnesota . . 
Iowa .... 
California . . 
Oregon . . . 

PopuLAK Vote. 




















































Totals 1,866,452 1,375,157 847,953 590,631 180 12 72 39 









































































































































* By Legislature. 

t Fusion electoral tickets. 

Messrs. Nicolay and Hay say that Lincoln was 
the "indisputable choice of the American people," 
and by way of sustaining the statement say that, 
if the "whole voting strength of the three oppos- 


ing parties had been united upon a single candi- 
date, Lincoln would nevertheless have been chosen 
with only a trifling diminution of his electoral 
majority." 1 It might be better to say that Lin- 
coln was the "indisputable choice " of the electoral 
college. The "American people" fell enormously 
short of showing a majority in his favor. His 
career as President was made infinitely more diffi- 
cult as well as greatly more creditable to him by 
reason of the very fact that he was not the choice 
of the American people, but of less than half of 
them, — and this, too, even if the Confederate 
States be excluded from the computation. ^ 

The election of Lincoln was "hailed with de- 
light" by the extremists in South Carolina; for it 
signified secession, and the imderlying and real 
desire of these people was secession, and not either 
compromise or postponement.^ 

1 N. and H., iii. 146. 

2 The total popular vote was 4,680,193. Lincoln had 1,866,452. 
In North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Lou- 
isiana, Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee, no vote was cast for the 
Lincoln ticket ; in Virginia only 1929 voted it. Adding the total 
popular vote of all these States (except the 1929), we get 854,775 ; 
deducting this from the total popular vote leaves a balance of 
3,825,418 ; of which one half is 1,912,709 ; so that even outside of 
the States of the Confederacy Lincoln did not get one half of the 
popular vote. South Carolina is not included in any calculation 
concerning the popular vote, because she chose electors by her 

^ Letter of Henry A. Wise, of Virginia, May 28, 1858, quoted 
N. and H., ii. 302 n. 



For a while now the people of the Northern 
States were compelled passively to behold a spec- 
tacle which they could not easily reconcile with 
the theory of the supreme excellence and wisdom 
of their system of government. Abraham Lincoln 
was chosen President of the United States No- 
vember 6, 1860 ; he was to be inaugurated March 
4, 1861. During the intervening four months the 
government must be conducted by a chief whose 
political creed was condemned by an overwhelming 
majority of the nation.^ The situation was as un- 
fair for Mr. Buchanan as it was hurtful for the 
people. As head of a republic, or, in the more 
popular phrase, as the chief "servant of the peo- 
ple," he must respect the popular will, yet he 
could not now administer the public business ac- 
cording to that will without being untrue to all his 
own convictions, and repudiating all his trusted 
counsellors. In a situation so intrinsically false 
efficient government was impossible, no matter 

1 Breckenrldge was the legitimate representative of the admin- 
istrationists, and his ticket received only 847,953 votes out of 
4,680,193. Douglas and Buchanan were at open war. 


what was the strength or weakness of the hand at 
the helm. Therefore there was every reason for 
displacing Buchanan from control of the national 
affairs in the autumn, and every reason against 
continuing him in that control through the winter ; 
yet the law of the land ordained the latter course. 
It seemed neither sensible nor even safe. During: 
this doleful period all descriptions of him agree : 
he seemed, says Chittenden, "shaken in body and 
uncertain in mind, ... an old man worn out by 
worry;" while the Southerners also declared him 
as "incapable of purpose as a child." To the like 
purport spoke nearly all who saw him. 

During the same time Lincoln's position was 
equally absurd and more trying. After the lapse 
of four months he was, by the brief ceremony of 
an hour, to become the leader of a great nation 
under an exceptionally awful responsibility; but 
during those four months he could play no other 
part than simply to watch, in utter powerlessness, 
the swift succession of crowding events, which all 
were tending to make his administration of the 
government dijSicult, or even impossible. Through- 
out all this long time, the third part of a year, 
which statutes scarcely less venerable than the 
Constitution itself freely presented to the disunion 
leaders, they safely completed their civil and mili- 
tary organization, while the Northerners, under a 
ruler whom they had discredited but of whom they 
could not get rid, were paralyzed for aU purposes 
of counter preparation. 


As a trifling compensation for its existence this 
costly interregnum presents to later generations a 
curious spectacle. A volume might be made of 
the public utterances put forth in that time by men 
of familiar names and more or less high repute, 
and it would show many of them in most strange 
and unexpected characters, so entirely out of keep- 
ing with the years which they had lived before and 
the years which they were to live afterward, that 
the reader would gaze in hopeless bewilderment. 
In the "solid " South, so soon to be a great rebel- 
ling unit, he would find perhaps half of the people 
opposed to disunion; in the North he would hear 
everywhere words of compromise and concession, 
while coercion would be mentioned only to be de- 
nounced. If these four months were useful in 
bringing the men of the North to the fighting 
point, on the other hand they gave an indispensa- 
ble opportunity for proselyting, by whirl and ex- 
citement, great numbers at the South. Even in 
the autmnn of 1860 and in the Gulf States seces- 
sion was still so much the scheme of leaders that 
there was no popular preponderance in favor of 
disunion doctrines. In evidence of this are the 
responses of governors to a circular letter of Gov- 
ernor Gist, of South Carolina, addressed to them 
October 5, 1860, and seeking information as to the 
feeling among the people. From North Carolina, 
Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama came replies that 
secession was not likely to be favorably received. 
Mississippi was non-committal. Louisiana, Geor- 


gia and Alabama desired a convention of the dis- 
contented States, and might be influenced by its 
action. North Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama 
would oppose forcible coercion of a seceding State. 
Florida alone was rhetorically belligerent. These 
reports were discouraging in the ears of the ex- 
tremist governor; but against them he could set 
the fact that the disunionists had the advantage 
of being the aggressive, propagandist body, homo- 
geneous, and pursuing an accurate policy in entire 
concert. They were willing to take any amount 
of pains to manipulate and control the election 
of delegates and the formal action of conven- 
tions, and in all cases except that of Texas the 
question was conclusively passed upon by conven- 
tions. By every means they "fired the Southern 
heart," which was notoriously combustible; they 
stirred up a great tumult of sentiment ; they made 
thunderous speeches ; they kept distinguished emis- 
saries moving to and fro; they celebrated each 
success with an uproar of cannonading, with bon- 
fires, illuminations and processions; they appealed 
to those chivalrous virtues supposed to be pecu- 
liar to Southerners; they preached devotion to 
the State, love of the state flag, generous loyalty 
to sister slave-communities; sometimes they used 
insult, abuse and intimidation; occasionally they 
argued seductively. Thus Mr. Cobb's assertion, 
that "we can make better terms out of the Union 
than in it," was, in the opinion of Alexander H. 
Stephens, the chief influence which carried Geor- 


gia out of the Union. In tlie main, however, it 
was the principle of state sovereignty and state 
patriotism which proved the one entirely trust- 
worthy influence to bring over the reluctant. "I 
abhor disunion, but I go with my State " was the 
common saying ; and the States were under skilful 
and resolute leadership. So though the popular 
discontent was far short of the revolutionary point, 
yet individuals, one after another, yielded to that 
sympathetic, emotional instinct which tempts each 
man to fall in with the big procession. In this 
way it was that during the Buchanan interregnum 
the people of the Gulf States became genuinely 
fused in rebellion. 

It is not correct to say that the election of Lin- 
coln was the cause of the Eebellion ; it was rather 
the signal. To the Southern leaders, it was the 
striking of the appointed hour. His defeat would 
have meant only postponement. South Carolina 
led the way. On December 17, 1860, her conven- 
tion came together, the Palmetto flag waving over 
its chamber of conference, and on December 20 it 
issued its "Ordinance."^ This declared that the 
Ordinance of May 23, 1788, ratifying the Consti- 
tution, is "hereby repealed," and the "Union now 
subsisting between South Carolina and other 
States, under the name of the United States of 
America, is hereby dissolved." A Declaration of 
Causes said that South Carolina had "resumed 

^ See remarks of Mr. Blaine upon use of this word. Twenty 
Years of Congress, i. 219. 


her position among the nations of the world as a 
separate and independent State." The language 
used was appropriate for the revocation of a power 
of attorney. The people hailed this action with 
noisy joy, unaccompanied by any regret or solem- 
nity at the severance of the old relationship. The 
newspapers at once began to publish "Foreign 
News " from the other States. The new governor, 
Pickens, a fiery Secessionist, and described as one 
"born insensible to fear," — presumably the con- 
dition of most persons at that early period of ex- 
istence, — had already suggested to Mr. Buchanan 
the impropriety of reinforcing the national gar- 
risons in the forts in Charleston harbor. He now 
accredited to the President three commissioners to 
treat with him for the delivery of the "forts, maga- 
zines, light-houses, and other real estate, with their 
appurtenances, in the limits of South Carolina; 
and also for an apportionment of the public debt, 
and for a division of all other property held by the 
government of the United States as agent of the 
Confederate States of which South Carolina was 
recently a member." This position, as of the dis- 
solution of a copartnership, or the revocation of an 
agency, and an accounting of debts and assets, was 
at least simple ; and by way of expediting it an ap- 
praisal of the "real estate" and "appurtenances" 
within the state limits had been made by the state 
government. Meanwhile there was in the harbor 
of Charleston a sort of armed truce, which might 
at any moment break into war. Major Anderson, 


in Fort Moultrie, and the state commander in the 
city watched each other like two suspicious ani- 
mals, neither sure when the other will spring. In 
short, in all the overt acts, the demeanor and the 
language of this excitable State, there was such 
insolence, besides hostility, that her emissaries 
must have been surprised at the urbane courtesy 
with which they were received, even by a presi- 
dent of Mr. Buchanan's views. 

After the secession of South Carolina the other 
Gulf States hesitated briefly. Mississippi fol- 
lowed first; her convention assembled January 7, 
1861, and on January 9 passed the Ordinance, 84 
yeas to 15 nays, subsequently making the vote 
unanimous. The Florida convention met January 
3, and on January 10 decreed the State to be "a 
sovereign and independent nation," 62 yeas to 7 
nays. The Alabama convention passed its Ordi- 
nance on January 11 by 61 yeas to 39 nays; the 
president announced that the idea of reconstruc- 
tion must be forever "dismissed." Yet the north- 
ern part of the State appeared to be substantially 
anti-secession. In Georgia the secessionists 
doubted whether they could control a convention, 
yet felt obliged to call one. Toombs, Cobb, and 
Iverson labored with tireless zeal throughout the 
State ; but in spite of all their proselyting, Union- 
ist feeling ran high and debate was hot. The 
members from the southern part of the State ven- 
tured to menace and dragoon those from the north- 
ern part, who were largely Unionists. The latter 


retorted angrily ; a schism and personal collisions 
were narrowly avoided. Alexander H. Stephens 
spoke for the Union with a warmth and logic not 
surpassed by anything that was said at the North. 
He and Herschel V. Johnson both voted against 
secession ; yet, on January 18, when the vote was 
taken, it showed 208 yeas against 89 nays. On 
January 26 Louisiana followed, the vote of the 
convention being 113 yeas to 17 nays; but it re- 
fused to submit the ordinance to the people for 
ratification. The action of Texas, the only other 
State which seceded prior to the inauguration of 
Lincoln, was delayed until February 1. There 
Governor Houston was opposing secession with 
such vigor as remained to a broken old man, 
whereby he provoked Senator Iverson to utter the 
threat of assassination: "Some Texan Brutus may 
arise to rid his country of this old hoary -headed 
traitor." But in the convention, when it came to 
voting, the yeas were 166, the nays only 7. 

By the light that was in him Mr. Buchanan was 
a Unionist, but it was a sadly false and flickering 
light, and beneath its feeble ilhunination his steps 
staggered wofully. For two months he diverged 
little from the path which the secessionist leaders 
would have marked out for him, had they controlled 
his movements. At the time of the election his 
cabinet was : — 

Lewis Cass, of Michigan, Secretary of State. 
Howell Cobb, of Georgia, Secretary of the Treasury. 
John B. Floyd, of Virginia, Secretary of War. 


Isaac Toucey, of Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy. 
Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi, Secretary of the Interior. 
Aaron V. Brown, of Tennessee, Postmaster-General. 
Jeremiah S. Black, of Pennsylvania, Attorney-General. 

Of these men Cobb, Floyd, and Thompson were 
extreme Secessionists. Many felt that Cobb should 
have been made President of the Southern Confed- 
eracy instead of Davis. In December Thompson 
went as commissioner from Mississippi to North 
Carolina to persuade that State to secede, and did 
not resign his place in the Cabinet because, as he 
said, Mr. Buchanan approved his mission. 

Betwixt his own predilections and the influence 
of these advisers Mr. Buchanan composed for the 
Thirty-sixth Congress a Message which carried 
consternation among all Unionists. It was of little 
consequence that he declared the present situation 
to be the "natural effect" of the "long-continued 
and intemperate interference" of the Northern 
people with slavery. But it was of the most seri- 
ous consequence that while he condemned secession 
as unconstitutional, he also declared himseK power- 
less to prevent it. His duty "to take care that 
the laws be faithfully executed" he knew no other 
way to perform except by aiding Federal officers 
in the performance of their duties. But where, as 
in South Carolina, the Federal officers had all re- 
signed, so that none remained to be aided, what 
was he to do ? This was practically to take the 
position that half a dozen men, by resigning their 
offices, could make the preservation of the Union 


by its chief executive impossible ! ^ Besides this, 
Mr. Buchanan said that he had "no authority to 
decide what should be the relations between the 
Federal government and South Carolina." He 
afterward said that he desired to avoid a collision 
of arms "between this and any other government." 
He did not seem to reflect that he had no right to 
recognize a State of the Union as being an "other 
government," in the sense in which he used the 
phrase, and that, by his very abstention from the 
measures necessary for maintaining unchanged that 
relationship which had hitherto existed, he became 
a party to the establishment of a new relation- 
ship, and that, too, of a character which he himself 
alleged to be unconstitutional. In truth, his chief 
purpose was to rid himself of any responsibility 
and to lay it all upon Congress. Yet he was will- 
ing to advise Congress as to its powers and duties 
in the business which he shirked in favor of that 
body, saying that the power to coerce a seceding 
State had not been delegated to it, and adding the 
warning that "the Union can never be cemented 
by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war." So 
the nation learned that its ruler was of opinion that 
to resist the destruction of its nationality was both 
unlawful and inexpedient. 

If the conclusions of the Message aroused alarm 

1 But it should be said that Attorney-General Black supported 
these views in a very elaborate opinion, which he had furnished to 
the President, and which was transmitted to Congress at the same 
time with the Message. 


and indignation, its logic excited ridicule. Sen- 
ator Hale gave a not unfair synopsis : The Presi- 
dent, he said, declares: 1. That South Carolina 
has just cause for seceding. 2. That she has no 
right to secede. 3. That we have no right to 
prevent her from seceding; and that the power of 
the government is "a power to do nothing at all." 
Another wit said that Buchanan was willing to 
give up a part of the Constitution, and, if neces- 
sary, the whole, in order to preserve the remainder! 
But while this message of Mr. Buchanan has 
been bitterly denounced, and with entire justice, 
from the hour of its transmission to the present 
day, yet a palliating consideration ought to be 
noted: he had little reason to believe that, if he 
asserted the right and duty of forcible coercion, he 
would find at his back the indispensable force, 
moral and physical, of the people. Demoraliza- 
tion at the North was widespread. After the lapse 
of a few months this condition passed, and then 
those who had been beneath its influence desired 
to forget the humiliating fact, and hoped that 
others might either forget or never know the 
measure of their weakness. In order that they 
might save their good names, it was natural that 
they should seek to suppress all evidence which had 
not already found its way upon the public record ; 
but enough remains to show how grievously for a 
while the knees were weakened under many who en- 
joy — and rightfully, by reason of the rest of their 
lives — the reputation of stalwart patriots. For 


example, late in October, General Scott suggested 
to the President a division of the country into four 
separate confederacies, roughly outlining their 
boundaries. Scott was a dull man, but he was the 
head of the army and enjoyed a certain prestige, so 
that it was impossible to say that his notions, how- 
ever foolish in themselves, were of no consequence. 
But if the blunders of General Scott could not 
fatally wound the Union cause, the blunders of 
Horace Greeley might conceivably do so. If there 
had been in the Northern States any newspaper — 
apart from Mr. Garrison's "Liberator" — which 
was thoroughly committed to the anti - slavery 
cause, it was the New York "Tribune," under 
the guidance of that distinguished editor. Repub- 
licans everywhere throughout the land had been 
educated by his teachings and had become accus- 
tomed to take a large part of their knowledge and 
their opinions in matters political from his writ- 
ings. It was a misfortime for Abraham Lincoln, 
which cannot be over - rated, that from the mo- 
ment of his nomination to the day of his death 
the "Tribune" was largely engaged in criticising 
his measures and in condemning his policy. 

No sooner did all that, which Mr. Greeley had 
been striving during many years to bring about, 
seem to be on the point of consummation, than 
the demoralized and panic-stricken reformer be- 
came desirous to undo his own achievements, and 
to use for the purpose of effecting a sudden retro- 
gression all the influence which he had gained 


by bold leadership. November 9, 1860, it was 
appalling to read in the editorial columns of his 
sheet, that "if the Cotton States shall decide that 
they can do better out of the Union than in it, we 
insist on letting them go in peace;" that, while 
the "Tribune " denied the right of nullification, 
yet it would admit that "to withdraw from the 
Union is quite another matter; " that "whenever a 
considerable section of our Union shall deliber- 
ately resolve to go out, we shall resist all coercive 
measures designed to keep it in.''^ At the end 
of another month the "Tribune's" famous editor 
was still in the same frame of mind, declaring 
himself "averse to the employment of military 
force to fasten one section of our Confederacy to 
the other," and saying that, "if eight States, 
having five millions of people, choose to separate 
from us, they cannot be permanently withheld 
from so doing by Federal cannon." On Decem- 
ber 17 he even said that the South had as good 
a right to secede from the Union as the colonies 
had to secede from Great Britain, and that he 
"would not stand up for coercion, for subjuga- 
tion," because he did "not think it would be 
just." On February 23, 1861, he said that if 
the Cotton States, or the Gulf States, "choose 
to form an independent nation, they have a clear 

^ Greeley afterwards truly said that his journal had plenty of 
company in these sentiments, even among the Republican sheets. 
Amer. Conflict, i. 359. Reference is made in the text to the utter- 
ances of the Tribune more because it was so prominent and influ- 
ential than because it was very peculiar in its position. 


moral right to do so," and if the "great body of 
the Southern people" become alienated from the 
Union and wish to "escape from it, we will do our 
best to forward their views." A volume could 
be filled with the like writing of his prolific pen 
at this time, and every sentence of such purport 
was the casting of a new stone to create an almost 
impassable obstruction in the path along which 
the new President must soon endeavor to move. 
Thurlow Weed, editor of the Albany "Evening 
Journal," and the confidential adviser of Seward, 
wrote in favor of concessions; he declared that 
"a victorious party can afford to be tolerant;" 
and he advocated a convention to revise the Con- 
stitution, on the ground that, "after more than 
seventy years of wear and tear, of collision and 
abrasion, it should be no cause of wonder that 
the machinery of government is found weakened, 
or out of repair, or even defective." Frequently 
he uttered the wish, vague and of fine sound, 
but enervating, that the Republicans might "meet 
secession as patriots and not as partisans." On 
November 9 the Democratic New York "Herald," 
discussing the election of Lincoln, said: "For far 
less than this our fathers seceded from Great 
Britain;" it also declared coercion to be "out of 
the question," and laid down the principle that 
each State possesses "the right to break the tie of 
the Confederacy, as a nation might break a treaty, 
and to repel coercion as a nation might repel inva- 


Local elections in New York and Massachusetts 
"showed a striking and general reduction of Re- 
publican strength." In December the mayor of 
Philadelphia, though that city had polled a heavy 
Eepublican majority, told a mass meeting in In- 
dependence Square that denunciations of slavery 
were inconsistent with national brotherhood and 
"must be frowned down by a just and law-abid- 
ing people." The Bell and Everett men, gene- 
rally, desired peace at any price. The business 
men of the North, alarmed at the prospect of 
disorder, became loudly solicitous for concession, 
compromise, even surrender.^ In Democratic 
meetings a threatening tone was adopted. One 
proposal was to reconstruct the Union, leaving 
out the New England States. So late even as 
January 21, 1861, before an immense and note- 
worthy gathering in New York, an orator ventured 
to say: "If a revolution of force is to begin, it 
shall be inaugurated at home;" and the words 
were cheered. The distinguished Chancellor 
Walworth said that it would be "as brutal to send 
men to butcher our own brothers of the Southern 
States as it would be to massacre them in the 
Northern States." When DeWitt Clinton's son, 
George, spoke of secession as "rebellion," the 
multitude hailed the word with cries of dissent. 
Even at Faneuil Hall, in Boston, "a very large 

1 Wilson, Rise and Fall of Slave Power, iii. 63-69; N. and H., 
iii. 255. See account of " the Pine Street meeting," New York, in 
Dix's Memoirs of Dix, i. 347. 


and respectable meeting" was emphatically in 
favor of compromise. It was impossible to mea- 
sure accurately the extent and force of all tbis 
demoralization; but the symptoms were that vast 
numbers were infected with such sentiments, and 
that they would have been worse than useless as 
backers of a vigorous policy on the part of the 

With the North wavering and ready to retreat, 
and the South aggressive and confident, it was 
exacting to expect Mr. Buchanan to stand up for 
a fight. Why should he, with his old-time Demo- 
cratic principles, now by a firm, defiant attitude 
precipitate a crisis, possibly a civil war, when 
Horace Greeley and Wendell Phillips were con- 
spicuously running away from the consequences 
of their own teachings, and were loudly crying 
"peace! peace!" after they themselves had long 
been doing all in their power to bring the North 
up to the fighting point? When these leaders 
faced to the rear, it was hard to say who could be 
counted upon to fill the front rank. In truth, it 
was a situation which might have discouraged a 
more combative patriot than Buchanan. Mean- 
while, while the Northerners talked chiefly of 
yielding, the hot and florid rhetoric of the South- 
ern orators, often laden with contemptuous insult, 
smote with disturbing menace upon the ears even 
of the most courageous Unionists. It was said at 
the South and feared at the North that secession 
had a "Spartan band in every Northern State," 


and that blood would flow in Northern cities at 
least as soon and as freely as on the Southern 
plantations, if forcible coercion should be at- 
tempted. Was it possible to be sure that this was 
all rodomontade? To many good citizens there 
seemed some reason to think that the best hope for 
avoiding the fulfilment at the North of these san- 
guinary threats might lie in the probability that 
the anti-slavery agitators would not stand up to 
encounter a genuinely mortal peril. 

When the Star of the West retired, a little 
ignominiously, from her task of reinforcing Fort 
Sumter, Senator Wigf all jeered insolently: "Your 
flag has been insulted," he said; "redress it if you 
dare ! You have submitted to it for two months, 
and you will submit forever. . . . We have dis- 
solved the Union ; mend it if you can ; cement it 
with blood ; try the experiment ! " Mr. Chestnut 
of South Carolina wished to "imfurl the Palmetto 
flag, fling it to the breeze . . . and ring the clarion 
notes of defiance in the ears of an insolent foe." 
Such bombastic but confident language, of which a 
great quantity was uttered in this winter of 1860- 
61, may exasperate or intimidate according to the 
present temper of the opponent whose ear it as- 
saults ; for a while the North was more in condi- 
tion to be awestruck than to be angered. Her 
spokesmen failed to answer back, and left her to 
listen not without anxiety to fierce predictions that 
Southern flags would soon be floating over the 
dome of the Capitol and even over Faneuil Hall, 


if she should be so imprudent as to test Southern 
valor and Southern resources. 

Matters looked even worse for the Union cause 
in Congress than in the country. Occasionally- 
some irritated Northern Republican shot out words 
of spirit; but the prevalent desire was for concilia- 
tion, compromise, and concession, while some actu- 
ally adopted secession doctrines. For example, 
Daniel E. Sickles, in the House, threatened that 
the secession of the Southern States should be fol- 
lowed by that of New York city; and in fact the 
scheme had been recommended by the Democratic 
mayor, Fernando Wood, in a message to the Com- 
mon Council of the city on January 6 ; and Gen- 
eral Dix conceived it to be a possibility. In the 
Senate Simon Cameron declared himseK desirous 
to preserve the Union "by any sacrifice of feeling, 
and I may say of principle." A sacrifice of politi- 
cal principle by Cameron was not, perhaps, a seri- 
ous matter; but he intended the phrase to be 
emphatic, and he was a leading Republican poli- 
tician, had been a candidate for the presidential 
nomination, and was dictator in Pennsylvania. 
Even Seward, in the better days of the middle of 
January, felt that he could "afford to meet preju- 
dice with conciliation, exaction with concession 
which surrenders no principle, and violence with 
the right hand of peace;" and he was "willing, 
after the excitement of rebellion and secession 
should have passed away, to call a convention for 
amending the Constitution." 


This Message of Buchanan marked the lowest 
point to which the temperature of his patriotism 
fell. Soon afterward, stimulated by heat applied 
from outside, it began to rise. The first intima- 
tion which impressed upon his anxious mind that 
he was being too acquiescent towards the South 
came from General Cass. That steadfast Demo- 
crat, of the old Jacksonian school, like many of 
his party at the North, was fully as good a jDatriot 
and Union man as most of the Republicans were 
approving themselves to be during these winter 
months of vacillation, alarm and compromise. In 
November he was strenuously in favor of forcibly 
coercing a seceding State, but later assented to the 
tenor of Mr. Buchanan's Message. The frame of 
mind which induced this assent, however, was tran- 
sitory; for immediately he began to insist upon 
the reinforcement of the garrisons of the Southern 
forts, and on December 13 he resigned, because 
the President refused to accede to his views. A 
few days earlier Howell Cobb had had the grace to 
resign from the Treasury, which he left entirely 
empty. In the reorganization Philip F. Thomas 
of Maryland, a Secessionist also, succeeded Cobb ; 
Judge Black was moved into the State Depart- 
ment, and Edwin M. Stanton, of Pennsylvania, 
followed Black as Attorney- General. Mr. Floyd, 
than whom no Secessionist has left a name in worse 
odor at the North, had at first advised against any 
"rash movement" in the way of secession, on the 
ground that Mr. Lincoln's administration would 


"fail, and be regarded as impotent for good or 
evil, within four months after his inauguration." 
None the less he had long been using his official 
position in the War Department to send arms into 
the Southern States and to make all possible ar- 
rangements for putting them in an advantageous 
position for hostilities. Fortunately about this 
time the famous defalcation in the Indian Depart- 
ment, in which he was guiltily involved, destroyed 
his credit with the President, and at the same 
time he quarrelled with his associates concerning 
Anderson's removal to Fort Sumter. On Decem- 
ber 29 he resigned, and the duties of his place 
were laid for a while upon Judge Holt, the Post- 

On Sunday morning, December 30, there was 
what has been properly called a Cabinet crisis. 
The South Carolina commissioners, just arrived 
in Washington, were demanding recognition, and 
to treat with the government as if they were re- 
presentatives of a foreign power. The President 
declined to receive them in a diplomatic character, 
but offered to act as go-between betwixt them and 
Congress. The President's advisers, however, 
were in a far less amiable frame of mind, for their 
blood had been stirred wholesomely by the seces- 
sion of South Carolina and the presence of these 
emissaries with their insolent demands. Mr. 
Black, now at the head of the State Department, 
had gone through much the same phases of feeling 
as General Cass. In November he had been "em- 


phatic in his advocacy of coercion," but afterward 
had approved the President's message and even 
declared forcible coercion to be ^^ ipso facto an ex- 
pulsion" of the State from the Union; since then 
he had drifted back and made fast at his earlier 
moorings. On this important Sunday morning 
Mr. Buchanan learned with dismay that either his 
reply to the South Carolinians must be substan- 
tially modified, or Mr. Black and Mr. Stanton 
would retire from the Cabinet. Under this pres- 
sure he yielded. Mr. Black drafted a new reply to 
the commissioners, Mr. Stanton copied it, Holt 
concurred in it, and, in substance, Mr. Buchanan 
accepted it. This affair constituted, as Messrs. 
Nicolay and Hay well say, "the President's virtual 
abdication," and thereafterward began the "Cab- 
inet regime." Upon the commissioners this chill 
gust from the North struck so disagreeably that, on 
January 2, they hastened home to their "indepen- 
dent nation." From this time forth the South 
covered Mr. Buchanan with contumely and abuse ; 
Mr. Benjamin called him "a senile executive, un- 
der the sinister influence of insane counsels; " and 
the poor old man, really wishing to do right, but 
stripped of friends and of his familiar advisers, 
and confounded by the views of new counsellors, 
presented a spectacle for pity. 

On January 8 Mr. Thompson, Secretary of the 
Interior, resigned, and the vacancy was left un- 
filled. A more important change took place on 
the following day, when Mr. Thomas left the 


Treasury Department, and the New York bankers, 
whose aid was essential, forced the President, 
sorely against his will, to give the place to General 
John A. Dix. This proved an excellent appoint- 
ment. General Dix was an old Democrat, but of 
the high-spirited type ; he could have tolerated se- 
cession by peaceable agreement, but rose in anger 
at menaces against the flag and the Union. He 
conducted his department with entire success, and 
also rendered to the country perhaps the greatest 
service that was done by any man during that win- 
ter. On January 29 he sent the telegram which 
closed with the famous words: "If any one at- 
tempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him 
on the spot." ^ This rung out as the first cheer- 
ing, stimulating indication of a fighting temper at 
the North. It was a tonic which came at a time 
of sore need, and for too long a while it remained 
the solitary dose ! 

So much of the President's Message as con- 
cerned the condition of the country was referred 
in the House to a Committee of Thirty-three, 
composed by appointing one member from each 
State. Other resolutions and motions upon the 
same subject, to the number of twenty -five, were 
also sent to this Committee. It had many sessions 
from December 11 to January 14, but never made 
an approach to evolving anything distantly ap- 
proaching agreement. When, on January 14, the 

^ For an account of this by General Dix himself, see Memoirs of 
John A. Dix, by Morgan Dix, i. 370-373. 


Report came, it was an absurd fiasco ; it contained 
six propositions, of which each had the assent of a 
majority of a quorum; but seven minority reports, 
bearing together the signatures of fourteen mem- 
bers, were also submitted ; and the members of the 
seceding States refused to act. The only actual 
fruit was a proposed amendment to the Constitu- 
tion : " That no amendment shall be made to the 
Constitution which will authorize or give to Con- 
gress the power to abolish or interfere, within any 
State, with the domestic institutions thereof, in- 
cluding that of persons held to labor or service by 
the laws of said State." In the expiring hours of 
the Thirty-sixth Congress this was passed by the 
House, and then by the Senate, and was signed by 
the President. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, 
said of it : " Holding such a provision to be now 
constitutional law, I have no objection to its being 
made express and irrevocable." This view of it 
was correct; it had no real significance, and the 
ill-written sentence never disfigured the Constitu- 
tion; it simply sank out of sight, forgotten by 
every one. 

Collaterally with the sitting of this House Com- 
mittee, a Committee of Thirteen was appointed in 
the Senate. To these gentlemen also "a string of 
Union-saving devices " was presented, but on the 
last day of the year they reported that they had 
"not been able to agree upon any general plan of 

The earnest effort of the venerable Crittenden 


to effect a compromise aroused a faint hope. But 
he offered little else than an extension westward 
of the Missouri Compromise line; and he never 
really had the slightest chance of effecting that 
consummation, which in fact could not he effected. 
His plan was finally defeated on the last evening 
of the session. 

Collaterally with these congressional debates 
there were also proceeding in Washington the ses- 
sions of the Peace Congress, another futile effort 
to concoct a cure for an incurable condition. It 
met on February 4, 1861, but only twenty-one 
States out of thirty-four were represented. The 
seven States which had seceded said that they 
could not come, being "Foreign Nations." Six 
other States ^ held aloof. Those Northern States 
which sent delegates selected "their most conserv- 
ative and compromising men," and so great a 
tendency towards concession was shown that 
Unionists soon condemned the scheme as merely a 
deceitful cover devised by the Southerners behind 
which they could the more securely carry on their 
processes of secession. These gentlemen talked a 
great deal and finally presented a report or plan 
to Congress five days before the end of the session ; 
the House refused to receive it, the Senate re- 
jected it by 7 ayes to 28 nays. The only useful- 
ness of the gathering was as evidence of the unwill- 
ingness of the South to compromise. In fact the 

^ Arkansas, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wis- 


Southern leaders were entirely frank and outspoken 
in acknowledging their position; they had said, 
from the beginning, that they did not wish the 
Committee of Thirty -three to accomplish anything; 
and they had endeavored to dissuade Southerners 
from accepting positions upon it. Hawkins of 
Florida said that "the time of compromise had 
passed forever." South Carolina refused to share 
in the Peace Congress, because she did "not deem 
it advisable to initiate negotiations when she had 
no desire or intention to promote the object in 
view." Governor Peters, of Mississippi, in poetic 
language, suggested another difficulty: "When 
sparks cease to fly upwards," he said, "Comanches 
respect treaties, and wolves kill sheep no more, 
the oath of a Black Republican might be of some 
value as a protection to slave property." Jeffer- 
son Davis contemptuously stigmatized all the 
schemes of compromise as "quack nostrums," and 
he sneered justly enough at those who spun fine 
arguments of legal texture, and consumed time 
"discussing abstract questions, reading patchwork 
from the opinions of men now mingled with the 

It is not known by what logic gentlemen who 
held these views defended their conduct in re- 
taining their positions in the government of the 
nation for the purpose of destroying it. Senator 
Yulee, of Florida, shamelessly gave his motive for 
staying in the Senate: "It is thought we can keep 
the hands of Mr. Buchanan tied and disable the 


Republicans from effecting any legislation which 
will strengthen the hands of the incoming admin- 
istration." Mr. Toombs, of Georgia, speaking 
and voting at his desk in the Senate, declared him- 
self "as good a rebel and as good a traitor as ever 
descended from Revolutionary loins," and said 
that the Union was already dissolved, — by which 
assertion he made his position in the Senate abso- 
lutely indefensible. The South Carolina senators 
resigned before their State ordained itself a "for- 
eign nation," and incurred censure for being so 
"precipitate." In a word, the general desire was 
to remain in office, hampering and obstructing the 
government, until March 4, 1861, and at a caucus 
of Disunionists it was agreed to do so. But the 
pace became too rapid, and resignations followed 
pretty close upon the formal acts of secession. 

On the same day on which the Peace Congress 
opened its sessions in Washington, there came 
together at Montgomery, in Alabama, delegates 
from six States for the purpose of forming a South- 
ern Confederacy. On the third day thereafter a 
plan for a provisional government, substantially 
identical with the Constitution of the United 
States, was adopted. On February 9 the oath of 
allegiance was taken, and Jefferson Davis and 
Alexander H. Stephens were elected respectively 
President and Vice-President. On February 13 
the military and naval committees were directed 
to report plans for organizing an army and navy. 
Mr. Davis promptly journeyed to Montgomery, 


making on the way many speeches, in which he 
told his hearers that no plan for a reconstruction 
of the old Union would be entertained ; and prom- 
ised that those who should interfere with the new 
nation would have to "smell Southern powder and 
to feel Southern steel." On February 18 he was 
inaugurated, and in his address again referred to 
the "arbitrament of the sword." Immediately 
afterward he announced his Cabinet as follows : — 
Robert Toombs, of Georgia, Secretary of State. 
C G. Memminger, of South Carolina, Secretary of the 

L. P. Walker, of Alabama, Secretary of War. 
S. R. Mallory, of Florida, Secretary of the Navy. 
J. H. Reagan, of Texas, Postmaster-General. 
Judah P. Benjamin, of Louisiana, Attorney-General. 

On March 11 the permanent Constitution was 
adopted.^ Thus the machine of the new govern- 
ment was set in working order. Mr. Greeley gives 
some interesting figures showing the comparative 
numerical strength of the sections of the country 
at this time : ^ — 

The free population of the seven States which 

had seceded, was ..... 2,656,948 

The free population of the eight slave States ' 

which had not seceded, was . . . 5,633,005 

Total 8,289,953 

1 It differed from that of the United States very little, save in 
containing a distinct recognition of slavery ; and in being made by 
the States instead of by the people. 

2 American Conflict, i. 351. 

8 This includes Delaware, 110,420, and Maryland, 599,846. 


The slaves in the States of the first list were, 2,312,046 
The slaves in the States of the second list were 1,638,297 

Total of slaves 3,950,343 

The population of the whole Union by the 

census of 1860, was ... . 31,443,321 

The disproportion would have discouraged the 
fathers of the new nation, if they had anticipated 
that the North would be resolute in using its over- 
whelming resources. But how could they believe 
that this would be the case when they read the 
New York "Tribune" and the reports of Mr. 
Phillips's harangues? 

On February 13 the electoral vote was to be 
counted in Congress. Rumors were abroad that 
the Secessionists intended to interfere with this by 
tumults and violence; but the evidence is insuffi- 
cient to prove that any such scheme was definitely 
matured ; it was talked of, but ultimately it seems 
to have been laid aside with a view to action at a 
later date. Naturally enough, however, the coun- 
try was disquieted. In the emergency the action 
of General Scott was watched with deep anxiety. 
A Southerner by birth and by social sympathies, 
he had been expected by the Secessionists to join 
their movement. But the old soldier — though 
broken by age and infirmities, and though he had 
proposed the folly of voluntarily quartering the 
country, like the corpse of a traitor — had his pa- 
triotism and his temper at once aroused when vio- 
lence was threatened. On and after October 29 


he had repeatedly advised reinforcement of the 
Southern garrisons; though it must be admitted, 
in Buchanan's behalf, that the General made no 
suggestion as to how or where the troops could be 
obtained for this purpose. In the same spirit he 
now said, with stern resolution, that there should 
be ample military preparations to ensure both the 
count and the inauguration; and he told some of 
the Southerners that he would blow traitors to 
pieces at the cannon's mouth without hesitation. 
Disturbed at his vehemence, they denounced him 
bitterly, and sent him frequent notices of assas- 
sination. Floyd distributed orders concerning 
troops and munitions directly from the War De- 
partment, and carefully concealed them from the 
General who was the head of the army. But 
secrecy and intimidation were in vain. The aged 
warrior was fiercely in earnest; if there was go- 
ing to be any outbreak in Washington he was 
going to put it down with bullets and bayonets, 
and he gathered his soldiers and instructed his 
officers accordingly. But happily the preparation 
of these things was sufficient to render the use of 
them unnecessary. When the day came Vice- 
President Breckenridge performed his duty, how- 
ever unwelcome, without flinching. He presided 
over the joint session and conducted the count 
with the air of a man determined to enforce law 
and order, and at the close declared the election 
of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin. 

Still only the smaller crisis had been passed. 


Much more alarming stories now flew from mouth 
to mouth, — of plots to seize the capital and to 
prevent the inauguration, even to assassinate Lin- 
coln on his journey to Washington. How much 
foundation there was for these is not accurately 
known. That the idea of capturing Washing- 
ton had fascinated the Southern fancy is certain. 
"I see no reason," said Senator Iverson, "why 
Washington City should not be continued the 
capital of the Southern Confederacy." The Rich- 
mond "Examiner" railed grossly: "That filthy 
cage of unclean birds must and will assuredly 
be purified by fire. . . . Our people can take it, 
— they will take it. . . . Scott, the arch-traitor, 
and Lincoln, the beast, combined, cannot prevent 
it. The 'Illinois Ape' must retrace his journey 
more rapidly than he came." The abundant talk 
of this sort created uneasiness; and Judge Holt 
said that there was cause for alarm. But a com- 
mittee of Congress reported that, though it was 
difficult to speak positively, yet they found no 
evidence sufficient to prove "the existence of a 
secret organization." Alexander H. Stephens has 
denied that there was any intention to attack the 
city, and probably the notion of seizure did not 
pass beyond the stage of talk. 

But the alleged plot to assassinate Mr. Lincoln 
was more definite. He had been spending the 
winter quietly in Springfield, where he had been 
overrun by visitors, who wished to look at him, 
to advise him, and to secure promises of office; 


fortunately the tedious procession had lost part of 
its oftensiveness by touching his sense of humor. 
Anxious people made well-meaning but useless 
efforts to induce him to say something for effect 
upon the popular mind; but he resolutely and 
wisely maintained silence. His position and ojjin- 
ions, he said, had already been declared in his 
speeches with all the clearness he could give to 
them, and the people had appeared to understand 
and approve them. He could not improve and did 
not desire to change these utterances. Occasion- 
ally he privately expressed his dislike to the con- 
ceding and compromising temper which threatened 
to undo, for an indefinite future, all which the 
long and weary struggle of anti- slavery men had 
accomplished. In this line he wrote a letter of 
protest to Greeley, which inspired that gentleman 
to a singular expression of sympathy; let the 
Union go to pieces, exclaimed the emotional editor, 
let presidents be assassinated, let the Republican 
party suffer crushing defeat, but let there not be 
"another nasty compromise." To Mr. Kellogg, the 
lUinoisian on the House Committee of Thirty-three, 
Lincoln wrote: "Entertain no proposition for a 
compromise in regard to the extension of slavery. 
The instant you do, they have us under again ; all 
our labor is lost, and sooner or later must be done 
over again." He repeated almost the same words 
to E. B. Washburne, a member of the House. 
Duff Green tried hard to get something out of 
him for the comfort of Mr. Buchanan, but failed 


to extort more than commonplace generalities. 
To Seward he wrote that he did not wish to inter- 
fere with the present status, or to meddle with 
slavery as it now lawfully existed. To like pur- 
port he wrote to Alexander H. Stephens, induced 
thereto by the famous Union speech of that gen- 
tleman. He eschewed hostile feeling, saying: "I 
never have been, am not now, and probably never 
shall be, in a mood of harassing the people, either 
North or South." Nevertheless while he said that 
all were "brothers of a common country," he was 
perfectly resolved that the country should remain 
"common," even if the bond of brotherhood had 
to be riveted by force. He admitted that this 
necessity would be "an ugly point;" but he was 
perfectly clear that "the right of a State to secede 
is not an open or debatable question." He de- 
sired that General Scott should be prepared either 
to "hold or retake" the Southern forts, if need 
should be, at or after the inauguration; but on 
his journey to Washington he said to many audi- 
ences that he wished no war and no bloodshed, 
and that these evils could be avoided if people 
would only "keep cool" and "keep their temper, 
on both sides of the line." 

On Monday, February 11, 1861, Mr. Lincoln 
spoke to his fellow-citizens of Springfield a very 
brief farewell, so solemn as to sound ominous in 
the ears of those who know what afterward oc- 
curred. It was arranged that he should stop at 
various points upon the somewhat circuitous route 


which had been laid out, and that he should arrive 
in Washington on Saturday, February 23. The 
programme was pursued accurately till near the 
close ; he made, of course, many speeches, but none 
added anything to what was already known as to 
his views. 

Meantime the thick rumors of violence were 
bringing much uneasiness to persons who were 
under responsibilities. Baltimore was the place 
where, and its villainous "Plug Uglies" were the 
persons by whom, the plot, if there was one, was 
to be executed. Mr. Felton, President of the 
Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad 
Company, engaged Allan Pinkerton to explore the 
matter, and the report of this skilful detective in- 
dicated a probability of an attack with the pur- 
pose of assassination. At that time the cars were 
drawn by horses across town from the northern to 
the southern station, and during the passage an 
assault could be made with ease and with great 
chance of success. As yet there was no indication 
that the authorities intended to make, even if they 
could make,^ any adequate arrangements for the 
protection of the traveller. At Philadelphia Mr. 
Lincoln was told of the fears of his friends, and 
talked with Mr. Pinkerton, but he refused to 
change his plan. On February 22 he was to 
assist at a flag-raising in Philadelphia, and was 
then to go on to Harrisburg, and on the following 

^ Marshal Kane and most of the police were reported to be 
Secessionists. Pinkerton, Spy of the Bebellion, 50, 61. 


day he was to go from there to Baltimore. He 
declined to alter either route or hours. 

But other persons besides Mr. Felton had been 
busy with independent detective investigations, 
the result of which was in full accord with the 
report of Mr. Pinkerton. On February 22 Mr. 
Frederick W. Seward, sent by his father and 
General Scott, both then at Washington, delivered 
to Mr. Lincoln, at Philadelphia, the message that 
there was "serious danger" to his life if the time 
of his passage through Baltimore should be known. 
Yet Lincoln still remained obdurate. He declared 
that if an escorting delegation from Baltimore 
should meet him at Harrisburg, he would go on 
with it. But at Harrisburg no such escort pre- 
sented itself. Then the few who knew the situa- 
tion discussed further as to what should be done. 
Orange B. Judd being chief spokesman for evad- 
ing the danger by a change of programme. Natur- 
ally the objection of seeming timid and of exciting 
ridicule was present in the minds of all, and it 
was put somewhat emphatically by Colonel Sum- 
ner. Mr. Lincoln at last settled the dispute; he 
said : " I have thought over this matter consider- 
ably since I went over the ground with Pinkerton 
last night. The appearance of Mr. Frederick 
Seward, with warning from another source, con- 
firms Mr. Pinkerton 's belief. Unless there are 
some other reasons besides fear of ridicule, I am 
disposed to carry out Judd's plan." 

This plan was accordingly carried out with the 


success which its simplicity insured. Mr. Lin- 
coln and his stalwart friend, Colonel Lamon, 
slipped out of a side door to a hackney carriage, 
were driven to the railway station, and returned 
by the train to Philadelphia. Their departure was 
not noticed, but had it been, news of it could not 
have been sent away, for Mr. Felton had had the 
telegraph wires secretly cut outside the town. He 
also ordered, upon a plausible pretext, that the 
southward -bound night train on his road should 
be held back until the arrival of this train from 
Harrisburg. Mr. Lincoln and Colonel Lamon 
passed from the one train to the other without 
recognition, and rolled into Washington early on 
the following morning. Mr. Seward and Mr. 
Washburne met Lincoln at the station and went 
with him to Willard's Hotel. Soon afterward 
the country was astonished, and perhaps some per- 
sons were discomfited, as the telegraph carried 
abroad the news of his arrival. 

Those who were disappointed at this safe con- 
clusion of his journey, if in fact there were any 
such, together with many who would have con- 
temned assassination, at once showered upon him 
sneers and ridicule. They said that Lincoln had 
put on a disguise and had shown the white feather, 
when there had been no real danger. But this 
was not just. Whether or not there was the com- 
pleted machinery of a definite, organized plot for 
assault and assassination is uncertain; that is to 
say, this is not proved ; yet the evidence is so 


strong that the majority of investigators seem to 
agree in the opinion that 'probably there was a 
plan thoroughly concerted and ready for execu- 
tion. Even if there was not, it was very likely 
that a riot might be suddenly started, which 
would be as fatal in its consequences as a premed- 
itated scheme. But, after all, the question of the 
plot is one of mere curiosity and quite aside from 
the true issue. That issue, so far as it presented 
itself for determination by Mr. Lincoln, was sim- 
ply whether a case of such probability of danger 
was made out that as a prudent man he should 
over-rule the only real objection, — that of exciting 
ridicule, — and avoid a peril which the best judges 
believed to exist, and which, if it did exist, in- 
volved consequences of immeasurable seriousness 
not only to himself but to the nation. For a wise 
man only one conclusion was possible. The story 
of the disguise was a silly slander, based upon 
the trifling fact that for this night journey Lincoln 
wore a travelling cap instead of his hat. 

Lincoln's own opinion as to the danger is not 
quite clear. 1 He said to Mr. Lossing that, after 
hearing Mr. Seward, he believed "such a plot to 
be in existence." But he also said: "I did not 
then, nor do I now, believe I should have been 
assassinated, had I gone through Baltimore as first 
contemplated; but I thought it wise to run no 
risk, where no risk was necessary." 

^ Lamon says that Mr. Lincoln afterwards regretted this jour- 
ney, and became convinced " that he had committed a grave mis- 
take." Lamon, 527. So also McCiure, 45, 48, 


The reflection can hardly fail to occur, how 
grossly unfair it was that Mr. Lincoln should be 
put into the position in which he was put at this 
time, and then that fault shoTild be found with 
him even if his prudence was overstrained. Many 
millions of people in the country hated him with 
a hatred unutterable ; among them might well be 
many fanatics, to whom assassination would seem 
a noble act, many desperadoes who would regard it 
as a pleasing excitement ; and he was to go through 
a city which men of this stamp could at any time 
dominate. The custom of the country compelled 
this man, whom it had long since selected as its 
ruler, to make a journey of extreme danger with- 
out any species of protection whatsoever. So far 
as peril went no other individual in the United 
States had ever, presumably, been in a peril like 
that which beset him ; so far as safeguards went, 
he had no more than any other traveller. A few 
friends volunteered to make the journey with him, 
but they were useless as guardians; and he and 
they were so hustled and jammed in the railway 
stations that one of them actually had his arm 
broken. This extraordinary spectacle may have 
indicated folly on the part of the nation which 
permitted it, but certainly it did not involve the 
disgrace of the individual who had no choice about 
it. The people put Mr. Lincoln in a position in 
which he was subjected to the most appalling, as it 
is the most vague, of all dangers, and then left him 
to take care of himself as best he could. It was 


ungenerous afterward to criticise him for exercis- 
ing prudence in the performance of that duty 
which he ought never to have been called upon to 
perform at all.^ 

^ For accounts of this journey and statements of the evidence 
of a plot, see Schouler, Hist, of Mass. in Civil War, i. 59-65 
(account by Samuel M. Felton, Prest. P. W. & B. R. R. Co.) ; 
N. and H., iii. ch. 19 and 20 ; Chittenden, Becoll, of Lincoln, x. ; 
Holland, 275 ; Arnold, 183-187 ; Lamon, ch. xx. ; (this account 
ought to be, and doubtless is, the most trustworthy) ; Herndon, 
492 (a bit of gossip which sounds improbable) ; Pinkerton, Spy 
of the Rebellion, 45-103. On the anti-plot side of the question 
the most important evidence is the little volume Baltimore and 
the Nineteenth of April, 1861, by George William Brown. This 
witness, whose strict veracity is beyond question, was mayor of 
the city. One of his statements, especially, is of the greatest 
importance. It is obvious that, if the plot existed, one of two 
things ought to occur on the morning of February 23, viz. : either 
the plotters and the mobsmen should know that Mr. Lincoln had 
escaped them, or else they should be at the station at the hour 
set for his arrival. In fact they were not at the station; there 
was no sudden assault on the cars, nor other indication of assassins 
and a mob. Had they, then, received knowledge of what had oc- 
curred ? Those who sustain the plot-theory say that the news had 
spread through the city, so that all the assassins and the gangs of 
the " Plug Uglies " knew that their game was up. This was^os- 
sihle, for Mr. Lincoln had arrived in the Washington station a few 
minutes after six o'clock in the morning, and the train which was 
expected to bring him to Baltimore did not arrive in Baltimore 
until half after eleven o'clock. But, on the other hand, the news 
was not dispatched from Washington immediately upon his arrival ; 
somewhat later, though still early in the morning, the detectives 
telegraphed to the friends of Mr. Lincoln, but in cipher. Just at 
what time intelligible telegrams, which would inform the public, 
were sent out cannot be learned ; but upon any arrangement of 
hours it is obvious that the time was exceedingly short for distrib- 
uting the news throughout the lower quarters of Baltimore by word 
of mouth, and there is no pretense of any publication. But while 


Immediately after his arrival in Washington 
Mr. Lincoln received a visit from the members of 
the Peace Congress. Grotesque and ridiculous 
descriptions of him, as if he had been a Caliban 
in education, manners, and aspect, had been rife 
among Southerners, and the story goes that the 
Southern delegates expected to be at once amused 
and shocked by the sight of a clodhopper whose 
conversation would be redolent of the barnyard, 
not to say of the pigsty. Those of them who had 
any skill in reading character were surprised, — 
as the tradition is, — discomfited, even a little 

the believers in the plot say, nevertheless, that this had been done 
and that the story of the journey had spread through the city so 
that all the assassins and " Plug Uglies " knew it in time to avoid 
assembling at the railway station about eleven o'clock, yet it ap- 
pears that Mr. Brown, the mayor, knew nothing about it. On the 
contrary, he tells us that in anticipation of Mr. Lincoln's arrival 
he, " as mayor of the city, accompanied by the police commis- 
sioners and supported by a strong force of police, was at the Cal- 
vert Street station on Saturday morning, February 23d, at 11.30 
o'clock . . . ready to receive with due respect the incoming Presi- 
dent. An open carriage was in waiting, in which I was to have the 
honor of escorting Mr. Lincoln through the city to the Washington 
station, and of sharing in any danger which he might encounter. 
It is hardly necessary to say that I apprehended none." To the 
"great astonishment" of Mr. Brown, however, the train brought 
only "Mrs. Lincoln and her three sons," and "it was then an- 
nounced that he had passed through the city incognito in the night 
train." This is a small bit of evidence to set against the elaborate 
stories of the believers in the plot, yet to some it will seem like 
the little obstruction which suffices to throw a whole railway train 
from the track. I would rather let any reader, who is sufficiently 
interested to examine the matter, reach his own conclusion, than 
endeavor to furnish one for him ; for I think that a dispute more 
difficult of really conclusive settlement will not easily be found. 


alarmed, at what in fact they beheld ; for Mr. Lin- 
coln appeared before them a self-possessed man, 
expressing to them such clear convictions and such 
a distinct and firm purpose as compelled them into 
new notions of his capacity and told them of much 
trouble ahead. His remark to Mr. Rives, coming 
from one who spoke accurately, had an ominous 
sound in rebellious ears : " My course is as plain 
as a turnpike road. It is marked out by the Con- 
stitution. I am in no doubt which way to go." 
The wiser Southerners withdrew from this recep- 
tion quite sober and thoughtful, with some new 
ideas about the man with whom their relationship 
seemed on the verge of becoming hostile. After 
abundant allowance is made for the enthusiasm of 
Northern admirers, it remains certain that Lincoln 
bore well this severe ordeal of criticism on the part 
of those who would have been glad to despise him. 
Ungainly they saw him, but not undignified, and 
the strange impressive sadness seldom dwelt so 
strikingly upon his face as at this time, as though 
all the weight of misery, which the millions of his 
fellow-citizens were to endure throughout the com- 
ing years, already burdened the soul of the ruler 
who had been chosen to play the most responsible 
part in the crisis and the anguish. 

March 4, 1861, inauguration day, was fine and 
sunny. If there had ever been any real danger 
of trouble, the fear of it had almost entirely sub- 
sided. Northerners and Southerners had found 
out in o'ood season that General Scott was not in 


a temporizing mood ; he had in the city two bat- 
teries, a few companies of regulars, — 653 men, 
exclusive of some marines, — and the corps of 
picked Washington Volunteers. He said that this 
force was all he wanted. President Buchanan left 
the White House in an open carriage, escorted by 
a company of sappers and miners under Captain 
Duane. At Willard's Hotel Mr. Lincoln entered 
the carriage, and the two gentlemen passed along 
the avenue, through crowds which cheered but 
made no disturbance, to the Capitol. General 
Scott with his regulars marched, "flanking the 
movement, in parallel streets." His two batteries, 
while not made unpleasantly conspicuous, yet con- 
trolled the plateau which extends before the east 
front of the Capitol. Mr. Lincoln was simply 
introduced by Senator Baker of Oregon, and de- 
livered his inaugural address. His voice had great 
carrying capacity, and the vast crowd heard with 
ease a speech of which every sentence was fraught 
with an importance and scrutinized with an anxiety 
far beyond that of any other speech ever delivered 
in the United States. At its close the venerable 
Chief Justice Taney administered the oath of 
office, thereby informally but effectually reversing 
the most famous opinion delivered by him during 
his long incumbency in his high office. 

The inaugural address was simple, earnest and 
direct, unencumbered by that rhetorical ornament- 
ation which the American people have always 
admired as the highest form of eloquence. Those 


Northerners who had expected magniloquent pe- 
riods and exaggerated outbursts of patriotism were 
disappointed ; and as they listened in vain for the 
scream of the eagle, many grumbled at the absence 
of what they conceived to he force. Yet the gen- 
eral feeling was of satisfaction, which grew as the 
address was more thoroughly studied. The South- 
erners, upon their part, looking anxiously to see 
whether or not they must fight for their purpose, 
construed the words of the new President cor- 
rectly. They heard him say: "The union of these 
States is perpetual." "No State upon its own 
mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union." 
"I shall take care, as the Constitution itself ex- 
pressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the 
Union be faithfully executed in all the States." 
He also declared his purpose "to hold, occupy and 
possess the property and places belonging to the 
Government, and to collect the duties and im- 
posts." These sentences made up the issue di- 
rectly with secession, and the South, reading 
them, knew that, if the North was ready to back 
the President, war was inevitable; none the less 
so because Mr. Lincoln closed with patriotic and 
generous words: "We are not enemies, but 
friends. We must not be enemies. Though pas- 
sion may have strained, it must not break our 
bonds of affection." 

Until after the election of Mr. Lincoln in No- 
vember, 1860, the sole issue between the North and 
the South, between Kepublicans on the one hand 


and Democrats and Compromisers on the other, 
had related to slavery. Logically the position of 
the Republicans was impregnable. Their plat- 
forms and their leaders agreed that the party 
intended strictly to respect the Constitution, and 
not to interfere at all with slavery in the States 
within which it now lawfully existed. They said 
with truth that they had in no case deprived the 
slave-holding communities of their rights, and they 
denied the truth of the charge that they cherished 
an inchoate design to interfere with those rights; 
adding very truly that, at worst, a mere design, 
which did not find expression in an overt act, could 
give no right of action to the South. Mr. Lincoln 
had been most explicit in declaring that the op- 
position to slavery was not to go beyond efforts to 
prevent its extension, which efforts would be wholly 
within the Constitution and the law. He repeated 
these things in his inaugural. 

But while these incontrovertible allegations gave 
the Republicans a logical advantage of which they 
properly made the most, the South claimed a right 
to make other collateral and equally undeniable 
facts the ground of action. The only public mat- 
ter in connection with which Mr. Lincoln had won 
any reputation was that of slavery. No one could 
deny that he had been elected because the Repub- 
lican party had been pleased with his expression of 
opinion on this subject. Now his most pointed 
and frequently reiterated expression of that opin- 
ion was, that slavery was a "moral, social, and 


political evil;" and this language was a fair 
equivalent of the statement of the Eepublican 
platform of 1856, classing Slavery and Mormonism 
together, as "twin relics of barbarism." That the 
North was willing, or would long be willing, to re- 
main in amicable social and political bonds with a 
moral, social, and political evil, and a relic of bar- 
barism, was intrinsically improbable, and was made 
more improbable by the symptoms of the times. ^ 
Indeed, Mr. Seward had said, in famous words, 
that his section would not play this unworthy part ; 
he had proclaimed already the existence of an "ir- 
repressible conflict; " and therefore the South had 
the word of the Republican leader that, in spite of 
the Republican respect for the law, an anti-slavery 
crusade was already in existence. The Southern 
chiefs distinctly recognized and accepted this situ- 
ation.^ There was an avowed Northern condem- 

^ Some of the Southern members of Congress collected and 
recited sundry noteworthy utterances of Republicans concerning 
slavery, and certainly there was little in them to induce a sense of 
security on the part of slave-holders. Wilson, Rise and Fall of 
Slave Power, iii. 97, 154. 

2 Toombs declared, as Lincoln had said, that what was wanted 
was that the North should call slavery right. Wilson, Rise and 
Fall of Slave Power, iii. 76. Stephens declared the " corner stone " 
of the new government to be " the great truth that the negro is 
not equal to the white man ; that slavery ... is his natural and 
normal condition ; " and said that it was the first government " in 
the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philo- 
sophical and moral truth." N. and H., iii. 203 ; and see his letter 
to Lincoln, ibid. 272, 273. Mississippi, in declaring the causes of 
her secession, said : " Our position is thoroughly identical with the 
institution of slavery, — the greatest material interest in the world." 


nation of their institution ; there was an acknow- 
ledged "conflict." Such being the case it was the 
opinion of the chief men at the South that the 
position taken by the North, of strict performance 
of clear constitutional duties concerning an odious 
institution, would not suffice for the safe perpetu- 
ation of that institution.^ This, their judgment, 
appeared to be in a certain way also the judgment 
of Mr. Lincoln; for he also conceived that to 
put slavery where the "fathers " had left it was to 
put it "in the way of ultimate extinction;" and 
he had, in the most famous utterance of his life, 
given his forecast of the future to the effect that 
the country would in time be "all free." The 
only logical deduction was that he, and the Repub- 
lican party which had agreed with him sufficiently 
to make him President, believed that the South 
had no lawful recourse by which this result, how- 
ever unwelcome or ruinous, could in the long run 
and the fulness of time be escaped. Under such 

N. and H., iii. 201. Senator Mason, of Virginia, said : It is " a war 
of sentiment, of opinion ; a war of one form of society against an- 
other form of society." Wilson, Eise and Fall of Slave Power, 
iii. 26. Green, of Missouri, ascribed the trouble to the " vitiated 
and corrupted state of public sentiment." Ibid. 23. Iverson, of 
Georgia, said it was the " public sentiment " at the North, not the 
" overt acts " of the Republican administration, that was feared ; 
and said that there was ineradicable enmity between the two sec- 
tions, which had not lived together in peace, were not so living 
now, and could not be expected to do so in the future. Ibid. 17. 

1 Historians generally seem to admit that the South had to 
choose between making the fight now, and seeing its favorite 
institution gradually become extinct. 


circumstances Southern political leaders now de- 
cided that the time for separation had come. Irt 
speaking of their scheme they called it "secession," 
and said that secession was a lawful act because 
the Constitution was a compact revocable by any 
of the parties. They might have called it "revo- 
lution," ^ and have defended it upon the general 
right of any large body of people, dissatisfied with 
the government under which they find themselves, 
to cast it off. But, if the step was revolution, 
then the burden of proof was upon them ; whereas 
they said that secession was their lawful right, 
without any regard whatsoever to the motive which 
induced them to exercise it.^ Such was the char- 
acter of the issue between the North and the South 
prior to the first ordinance of secession. The 
action of South Carolina, followed by the other 
Gulf States, at once changed that issue, shifting 
it from pro-slavery versus anti-slavery, to union 
versus disunion. This alteration quickly compelled 
great numbers of men both at the North and at 
the South, to reconsider and, upon a new issue, 
to place themselves also anew. 

It has been said by all writers that in the seven 
seceding States there was, in the four months fol- 
lowing the election, a very large proportion of 
"Union men." The name only signified that 
these men did not think that the present induce- 
ments to disunion were sufficient to render it a 

1 Sometimes, though very rarely, the word was used. 

2 See Lincoln's Message to Congress, July 4, 1861. 


wise measure. It did not signify that they 
thought disunion unlawful, unconstitutional, and 
treasonable. When, however, state conventions 
decided the question of advisability against their 
opinions, and they had to choose between alle- 
giance to the State and allegiance to the Union, 
they immediately adhered to the State, and this 
none the less because they feared that she had 
taken an ill-advised step. That is to say, at the 
South a "Union man" wished to preserve the 
Union, whereas at the North a "Union man" 
recognized a supreme obligation to do so. 

While the South, by political alchemy, was 
hecoming solidified and homogeneous, a corre- 
sponding change was going on at the North. In 
that section the great numbers — of whom some 
would have re-made the Constitution, others would 
have agreed to peaceable separation, and still 
others would have made any concession to retain 
the integrity of the Union — now saw that these 
were indeed, as Jefferson Davis had said, "quack 
nostrums," and that the choice lay between per- 
mitting a secession accompanied with insulting 
menaces and some degree of actual violence, and 
maintaining the Union by coercion. In this di- 
lemma great multitudes of Northern Democrats, 
whose consciences had never been in the least dis- 
turbed by the existence of slavery in the country 
or even by efforts to extend it, became "Union 
men" in the Northern sense of the word, which 
made it about equivalent to coercionists. Their 


simple creed was the integrity and perpetuity of 
the nation. 

Mr. Lincohi showed in his inaugural his accu- 
rate appreciation of the new situation. Owing all 
that he had become in the world to a few anti- 
slavery speeches, elevated to the presidency by 
votes which really meant little else than hostility 
to slavery, what was more natural than that he 
should at this moment revert to this great topic 
and make the old dispute the main part and real 
substance of his address ? But this fatal error he 
avoided. With unerring judgment he dwelt little 
on that momentous issue which had only just been 
displaced, and took his stand fairly upon that still 
more momentous one which had so newly come up. 
He spoke for the Union ; upon that basis a united 
North ought to support him; upon that basis the 
more northern of the slave States might remain 
loyal. As matter of fact Union had suddenly 
become the real issue, but it needed at the hands 
of the President to be publicly and explicitly an- 
nounced as such; his recognition was essential; 
he gave it on this earliest opportunity, and the 
announcement was the first great service of the 
new Republican ruler. It seems now as though 
he could hardly have done otherwise or have fallen 
into the error of allying himself with bygone or 
false issues. It may be admitted that he could 
not have passed this new one by ; but the impor- 
tant matter was that of proportion and relation, 
and in this it was easy to blunder. In truth it 


was a crisis when blundering was so easy that 
nearly all the really able men of the North had 
been doing it badly for three or four months past, 
and not a few of them were going to continue it 
for two or three months to come. Therefore, the 
sound conception of the inaugural deserves to be 
considered as an indication, one among many, of 
Lincoln's capacity for seeing with entire distinct- 
ness the great main fact, and for recognizing it as 
such. Other matters, which lay over and around 
such a fact, side issues, questions of detail, affairs 
of disguise or deception, never confused or misled 
him. He knew with unerring accuracy where the 
biggest fact lay, and he always anchored fast to it, 
and stayed with it. For many years he had been 
anchored to anti-slavery; now, in the face of the 
nation, he shifted his anchorage to the Union; 
and each time he held securely. 



From the inaugural ceremonies Lincoln drove 
quietly back through Pennsylvania Avenue and 
entered the White House, the President of the 
United States, — alas, united no longer. Many an 
anxious citizen breathed more freely when the 
dreaded hours had passed without disturbance. 
But burdens a thousand-fold heavier than any 
which were lifted from others descended upon the 
new ruler. Save, however, that the thoughtful, 
far-away expression of sadness had of late seemed 
deeper and more impressive than ever before, Lin- 
coln gave no sign of inward trouble. His singular 
temperament armed him with a rare and peculiar 
strength beneath responsibility and in the face of 
duty. He has been seen, with entire tranquillity, 
not only seeking, but seeming to assume as his 
natural due or destiny, positions which appeared 
preposterously out of accord alike with his early 
career and with his later opportunities for develop- 
ment. In trying to explain this, it is easier to 
say what was not the underlying quality than what 
it was. Certainly there was no taint whatsoever 
of that vulgar self - confidence, which is so apt 


to lead the "free and equal" citizens of the great 
Republic into grotesque positions. Perhaps it was 
a grand simplicity of faith ; a profound instinctive 
confidence that by patient, honest thinking it would 
be possible to know the right road, and by earnest 
enduring courage to follow it. Perhaps it was 
that so-called divine inspiration which seems always 
a part of the highest human fitness. The fact 
which is distinctly visible is, that a fair, plain and 
honest method of thinking saved him from the 
perplexities which beset subtle dialecticians in pol- 
itics and in constitutional law. He had lately said 
that his course was "as plain as a turnpike road; " 
it was, to execute the public laws. 

His duty was simple; his understanding of it 
was unclouded by doubt or sophistry; his resolu- 
tion to do it was firm; but whether his hands would 
be strengthened sufficiently to enable him to do it 
was a question of grave anxiety. The President 
of a Republic can do everything if the people are 
at his back, and almost nothing if the people are 
not at his back. Where, then, were now the peo- 
ple of the United States? In seven States they 
were openly and unitedly against him ; in at least 
seven more they were under a very strong tempta- 
tion to range themselves against him in case of a 
conflict; and as for the Republican States of the 
North, on that fourth day of March, 1861, no man 
could say to what point they would sustain the 
administration. There had as yet come slight 
indications of any change in the conceding, com- 


promising temper of that section. Greeley and 
Seward and Wendell Phillips, representative men, 
were little better than Secessionists. The state- 
ment sounds ridiculous, yet the proof against each 
comes from his own mouth. The "Tribune" had 
retracted none of those disunion sentiments, of 
which examples have been given. Even so late as 
April 10, 1861, Mr. Seward wrote officially to Mr. 
C. F. Adams, Minister to England, "Only an im- 
perial and despotic government could subjugate 
thoroughly disaffected and insurrectionary members 
of the State. This federal, republican country of 
ours is, of all forms of government, the very one 
which is the most unfitted for such a labor." He 
had been and still was favoring delay and concilia- 
tion, in the visionary hope that the seceders would 
follow the scriptural precedent of the prodigal son. 
On April 9, the rumor of a fight at Sumter being 
spread abroad, Mr. Phillips said : ^ " Here are a 
series of States, girding the Gulf, who think that 
their peculiar institutions require that they should 
have a separate government. They have a right 
to decide that question without appealing to you 
or me. . . . Standing with the principles of '76 
behind us, who can deny them the right? . . . 
Abraham Lincoln has no rigfht to a soldier in Fort 
Siunter. . . . There is no longer a Union. . . . 
Mr. Jefferson Davis is angry, and Mr. Abraham 
Lincoln is mad, and they agree to fight. . . . You 

^ At New Bedford, in a lecture " whicli was interrupted by fre- 
quent hisses." Schonler, Hist, of Mass. in the Civil War, L 44-47. 


cannot go through Massachusetts and recruit men 
to bombard Charleston or New Orleans. . . . We 
are in no condition to fight. . . . Nothing but 
madness can provoke war with the Gulf States;" 
— with much more to the same effect. 

If the veterans of the old anti-slavery contest 
were in this frame of mind in April, Lincoln could 
hardly place much dependence upon the people at 
large in March. If he could not "recruit men" 
in Massachusetts, in what State could he reasona- 
bly expect to do so? Against such discourage- 
ment it can only be said that he had a singular 
instinct for the underlying popiilar feeling, that he 
could scent it in the distance and in hiding; more- 
over, that he was always willing to run the chance 
of any consequences which might follow the per- 
formance of a clear duty. StiD, as he looked over 
the dreary Northern field in those chill days of 
early March, he must have had a marvellous sensi- 
tiveness in order to perceive the generative heat 
and force in the depths beneath the cheerless sur- 
face and awaiting only the fulness of the near 
spring season to burst forth in sudden universal 
vigor. Yet such was his knowledge and such his 
faith concerning the people that we may fancy, if 
we will, that he foresaw the great transformation. 
But there were still other matters which disturbed 
him. Before his inauguration, he had heard much 
of his coming official isolation. One of the argu- 
ments reiterated alike by Southern Unionists and 
by Northerners had been that the Republican 


President would be powerless, because the Senate, 
the House, and the Supreme Court were all op- 
posed to him. But the supposed lack of political 
sympathy on the part of these bodies, however it 
might beget anxiety for the future, was for the 
present of much less moment than another fact, 
viz., that none of the distinguished men, leaders 
in his own party, whom Lincoln found about him 
at Washington, were in a frame of mind to assist 
him efficiently. If all did not actually distrust his 
capacity and character, — which, doubtless, many 
honestly did, — at least they were profoundly ig- 
norant concerning both. Therefore they could not 
yet, and did not, place genuine, implicit confidence 
in him ; they could not yet, and did not, advise and 
aid him at all in the same spirit and with the same 
usefulness as later they were able to do. They 
were not to blame for this; on the contrary, the 
condition had been brought about distinctly against 
their will, since certainly few of them had looked 
with favor upon the selection of an unknown, in- 
experienced, ill-educated man as the Republican 
candidate for the presidency. How much Lincoln 
felt his loneliness will never be known ; for, reti- 
cent and self-contained at all times, he gave no 
outward sign. That he felt it less than other men 
would have done may be regarded as certain ; for, 
as has already appeared to some extent, and as 
will appear much more in this narrative, he was 
singularly self-reliant, and, at least in appearance, 
was strangely indifferent to any counsel or support 


which could be brought to him by others. Yet, 
marked as was this trait in him, he could hardly 
have been human had he not felt oppressed by the 
personal solitude and political isolation of his posi- 
tion when the responsibility of his great office 
rested newly upon him. Under all these circum- 
stances, if this lonely man moved slowly and cau- 
tiously during the early weeks of his administra- 
tion, it was not at his door that the people had the 
right to lay the reproach of weakness or hesitation. 
Mr. Buchanan, for the convenience of his suc- 
cessor, had called an extra session of the Senate, 
and on March 5 President Lincoln sent in the 
nominations for his Cabinet. All were immedi- 
ately confirmed, as follows : — 

William H. Seward, New York, Secretary of State. 
Salmon P. Chase, Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury. 
Simon Cameron, Pennsylvania, Secretary of War. 
Gideon Welles, Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy. 
Caleb B. Smith, Indiana, Secretary of the Interior. 
Edward Bates, Missouri, Attorney-General. 
Montgomery Blau-, Maryland, Postmaster- General. 

It is matter of course that a Cabinet slate should 
fail to give general satisfaction ; and this one en- 
countered fully the average measure of criticism. 
The body certainly was somewhat heterogeneous 
in its composition, yet the same was true of the 
Republican party which it represented. Nor was 
it by any means so heterogeneous as Mr. Lincoln 
had designed to have it, for he had made efforts 
to place in it a Southern spokesman for Southern 


views ; and he had not desisted from the purpose 
until its futility was made apparent by the direct 
refusal of Mr. Gilmer of North Carolina, and by 
indications of a like unwillingness on the part of 
one or two other Southerners who were distantly 
sounded on the subject. Seward, Chase, Bates 
and Cameron were the four men who had mani- 
fested the greatest popularity, after Lincoln, in 
the national convention, and the selection of them, 
therefore, showed that Mr. Lincoln was seeking 
strength rather than amity in his Cabinet; for it 
was certainly true that each one of them had a fol- 
lowing which was far from being wholly in sym- 
pathy with the following of any one of the others. 
The President evidently believed that it was of 
more importance that each great body of Northern 
men should feel that its opinions were fairly pre- 
sented, than that his Cabinet officers should always 
comfortably unite in looking at questions from one 
and the same point of view. Judge Davis says 
that Lincoln's original design was to appoint 
Democrats and Eepublicans alike to office. He 
carried this theory so far that the radical Eepubli- 
cans regarded the make-up of the Cabinet as a 
"disgraceful surrender to the South;" while men 
of less extreme views saw with some alarm that he 
had called to his advisory council four ex-Demo- 
crats and only three ex-Whigs, a criticism which 
he met by saying that he himself was an "old-line 
Whig " and should be there to make the parties 
even. On the other hand, the Republicans of the 


middle line of States grumbled much at the selec- 
tion of Bates and Blair as representatives of their 

The Cabinet had not been brought together 
without some jarring and friction, especially in the 
case of Cameron. On December 31 Mr. Lincoln 
intimated to him that he should have either the 
Treasury or the War Department, but on January 
3 requested him to "decline the appointment." 
Cameron, however, had already mentioned the 
matter to many friends, without any suggestion 
that he should not be glad to accept either position, 
and therefore, even if he were willing to accede to 
the sudden, strange, and unexplained request of 
Mr. Lincoln, he would have found it difficult to 
do so without giving rise to much embarrassing 
gossip. Accordingly he did not decline, and there- 
upon ensued much wire-pulling. Pennsylvania 
protectionists wanted Cameron in the Treasury, 
and strenuously objected to Chase as an ex-Demo- 
crat of free-trade proclivities. On the other hand, 
Lincoln gradually hardened into the resolution that 
Chase should have the Treasury. He made the 
tender, and it was accepted. He then offered 
consolation to Pennsylvania by giving the War 
portfolio to Cameron, which was accepted with 
something of chagrin. How far this Cameron 
episode was affected by the bargain declared by 
Lamon to have been made at Chicago cannot be 
told. Other biographers ignore this story, but I 
do not see how the direct testimony furnished by 


Lamon and corroborated by Colonel McClure can 
justly be treated in this way; neither is the temp- 
tation so to treat it apparent, since the evidence 
entirely absolves Lincoln from any complicity at 
the time of making the alleged "trade," while 
he could hardly be blamed if he felt somewhat 
hampered by it afterward. 

Seward also gave trouble which he ought not 
to have given. On December 8 Lincoln wrote to 
him that he would nominate him as Secretary of 
State. Mr. Seward assented and the matter re- 
mained thus comfortably settled until so late as 
March 2, 1861, when Seward wrote a brief note 
asking "leave to withdraw his consent." Appar- 
ently the Democratic complexion of the Cabinet, 
and the suggestions of suspicious friends made 
him fear that his influence in the ministry would 
be inferior to that of Chase. Coming at this 
eleventh hour, which already had its weighty 
burden of many anxieties, this brief destructive 
note was both embarrassing and exasperating. 
It meant the entire reconstruction of the cabinet. 
Never did Lincoln's tranquil indifference to per- 
sonal provocation stand him in better stead than 
in this crisis, — for a crisis it was when Seward, 
in discontent and distrust, desired to draw aloof 
from the administration. He held the note of the 
recalcitrant politician for two days unanswered, 
then he wrote a few lines: "Your note," he said, 
"is the subject of the most painful solicitude with 
me; and I feel constrained to beg that you will 


countermand the withdrawal. The public interest, 
I think, demands that you should ; and my personal 
feelings are deeply enlisted in the same direction." 
These words set Mr. Seward right again; on 
March 5 he withdrew his letter of March 2, and 
in a few hours was appointed. 

Immediately after the installation of the new 
government three commissioners from the Confed- 
eracy came to Washington, and requested an offi- 
cial audience. They said that seven States of the 
American Union had withdrawn therefrom, had 
reassumed sovereign power, and were now an in- 
dependent nation in fact and in right; that, in 
order to adjust upon terms of amity and good-will 
all questions growing out of this political separa- 
tion, they were instructed to make overtures for 
opening negotiations, with the assurance that the 
Confederate Government earnestly desired a peace- 
ful solution and would make no demand not 
founded in strictest justice, neither do any act to 
injure their late confederates. From the Confed- 
erate point of view these approaches were dignified 
and conciliatory; from the Northern point of view 
they were treasonable and insolent. Probably the 
best fruit which Mr. Davis hoped from them was 
that Mr. Seward, who was well known to be desir- 
ous of finding some peace-assuring middle course, 
might be led into a discussion of the situation, 
inevitably provoking divisions in the Cabinet, in 
the Republican party, and in the country. But 
though Seward's frame of mind about this time 


was such as to put him in great jeopardy of com- 
mitting hurtful blunders, he was fortunate enough 
to escape quite doing so. To the agent of the com- 
missioners he replied that he must "consult the 
President," and the next day he wrote, in terms of 
personal civility, that he could not receive them. 
Nevertheless they remained in Washington a few 
weeks longer, gathering and forwarding to the 
Confederate government such information as they 
could. In this they were aided by Judge Camp- 
bell, of Alabama, a Secessionist, who still retained 
his seat upon the bench of the Supreme Court. 
This gentleman now became a messenger between 
the commissioners and Mr. Seward, with the pur- 
pose of eliciting news and even pledges from the 
latter for the use of the former. His errands es- 
pecially related to Fort Sumter, and he gradually 
drew from Mr. Seward strong expressions of opin- 
ion that Sumter would in time be evacuated, even 
declarations substantially to the effect that this 
was the arranged policy of the government. 
Words which fell in so agreeably with the wishes 
of the Judge and the commissioners were received 
with that warm welcome which often outruns cor- 
rect construction, and later were construed by them 
as actual assurances, at least in substance, whereby 
they conceived themselves to have been "abused 
and over-reached," and they charged the govern- 
ment with "equivocating conduct." In the second 
week in April, contemporaneously with the Sum- 
ter crisis, they addressed to Mr. Seward a high- 


flown missive of reproach, in which they ostenta- 
tiously washed the hands of the South, as it were, 
and shook from their own departing feet the dust 
of the obdurate North, where they had not been 
met "in the conciliatory and peaceful spirit" in 
which they had come. They invoked "impartial 
history " to place the responsibility of blood and 
mourning upon those who had denied the great 
fundamental doctrine of American liberty; and 
they declared it "clear that Mr. Lincoln had de- 
termined to appeal to the sword to reduce the peo- 
ple of the Confederate States to the will of the 
section or party whose President he is." In this 
dust-cloud of glowing rhetoric vanished the last 
deceit of peaceful settlement. 

About the same time, April 13, sundry commis- 
sioners from the Virginia convention waited upon 
Lincoln with the request that he would communi- 
cate the policy which he intended to pursue to- 
wards the Confederate States. Lincoln replied 
with a patient civility that cloaked satire : " Hav- 
ing at the beginning of my official term expressed 
my intended policy as plainly as I was able, it is 
with deep regret and some mortification I now 
learn that there is great and injurious uncertainty 
in the public mind as to what that policy is, and 
what course I intend to pursue." To this ratifica- 
tion of the plain position taken in his inaugural, he 
added that he might see fit to repossess himself of 
the public property, and that possibly he might 
withdraw the mail service from the seceding States. 


The inauguration of Mr. Lincoln was followed 
by a lull which endured for several weeks. A like 
repose reigned contemporaneously in the Confed- 
erate States. For a while the people in both sec- 
tions received with content this reaction of quies- 
cence. But as the same laws of human nature 
were operative equally at the North and at the 
South, it soon came about that both at the North 
and at the South there broke forth almost simul- 
taneously strong manifestations of impatience. 
The genuine President at Washington and the 
sham President at Montgomery were assailed by 
the like pressing demand: Why did they not do 
something to settle this matter ? Southern irasci- 
bility found the situation exceedingly trying. The 
imposing and dramatic attitude of the Confederate 
States had not achieved an appropriate result. 
They had organized a government and posed as an 
independent nation, but no power in the civilized 
world had yet recognized them in this character; 
on the contrary, Abraham Lincoln, living hard by 
in the White House, was explicitly denying it, 
contimiaciously alleging himself to be their lawful 
ruler, and waiting with an exasperating patience 
to see what they really were going to do in the 
business which they had undertaken. They must 
make some move or they would become ridiculous, 
and their revolution would die and their confed- 
eracy would dissolve from sheer inanition. The 
newspapers told their leaders this plainly; and a 
prominent gentleman of Alabama said to Mr. 


Davis : " Sir, unless you sprinkle blood in the face 
of the people of Alabama, they will be back in 
the Union in ten days." On the other hand, the 
people of the North were as energetic as the sons 
of the South were excitable, and with equal ur- 
gency they also demanded a conclusion. If the 
Union was to be enforced why did not Mr. Lin- 
coln enforce it? How long did he mean placidly 
to suffer treason and a rival government to rest 
imdisturbed within the country? 

With this state of feeling growing rapidly more 
intense in both sections, action was inevitable. 
Yet neither leader wished to act first, even for the 
important purpose of gratifying the popular will. 
As where two men are resolved to fight, yet have 
an uneasy vision of a judge and jury in waiting 
for them, each seeks to make the other the assail- 
ant and himself to be upon his defense, so these 
two rulers took prudent thought of the tribunal 
of public sentiment not in America alone but in 
Europe also, with perhaps a slight forward glance 
towards posterity. If Mr. Lincoln did not like 
to "invade" the Southern territory, Mr. Davis 
was equally reluctant to make the Southern "with- 
drawal " actively belligerent through operations of 
military offense. Both men were capable of 
statesmanlike waiting to score a point that was 
worth waiting for; Davis had been for years bid- 
ing the rij)eness of time, but Lincoln had the ca- 
pacity of patience beyond any precedent on record. 

The spot where the strain came, where this ques- 


tion of the first blow must be settled, was at Fort 
Sumter, in the mid-throat of Charleston harbor. 
On December 27, 1860, by a skilful movement at 
night, Major Anderson, the commander at Fort 
Moultrie, had transferred his scanty force from 
that dilapidated and untenable post on the shore 
to the more defensible and more important posi- 
tion of Fort Sumter. Thereafter a precarious 
relationship betwixt peace and war had subsisted 
between him and the South Carolinians. It was 
distinctly understood that, sooner or later, by ne- 
gotiation or by force. South Carolina intended to 
possess herself of this fortress. From her point 
of view it certainly was preposterous and unendur- 
able that the key to her chief harbor and city 
should be permanently held by a "foreign " power. 
Gradually she erected batteries on the neighboring 
mainland and kept a close surveillance upon the 
troops now more than half besieged in the fort. 

Under the Buchanan regime the purpose of the 
United States government had been less plain than 
it became after Mr. Lincoln's accession; for Bu- 
chanan had not the courage either to order a sur- 
render, or to provoke real warfare by reinforcing 
the place. In vain did the unfortunate Major 
Anderson seek distinct instructions; the replies 
which he received were contradictory and more 
obscure than Delphic oracles. This unfair, vacil- 
lating and contemptible conduct indicated the de- 
sire to lay upon him alone the whole responsibility 
of the situation, with a politic and selfish reserva- 


tion to the government of the advantage of disa- 
vowing and discrediting him, whatever he might 
do. On January 9 a futile effort at communica- 
tion was made by the steamer Star of the West; 
it failed, and left matters worse rather than better. 
On March 3, 1861, the Confederate government 
put General Beauregard in command at Charleston, 
thereby emphasizing the resolution to have Sumter 
ere long. Such was the situation on March 4, 
when Mr. Lincoln came into control and declared 
a policy which bound him to "hold, occupy, and 
possess " Sumter. On the same day there came a 
letter from Major Anderson, describing his posi- 
tion. There were shut up in the fort together a 
certain number of men and a certain quantity of 
biscuit and of pork; when the men should have 
eaten the biscuit and the pork, which they would 
probably do in about four weeks, they would have 
to go away. The problem thus became direct, 
simple, and urgent. 

Lincoln sought an opinion from Scott, and was 
told that "evacuation seems almost inevitable." 
He requested a more thorough investigation, and 
a reply to specific questions: "To what point of 
time can Anderson maintain his position in Sum- 
ter? Can you, with present means, relieve him 
in that time? What additional means would 
enable you to do so?" The General answered 
that four months would be necessary to prepare 
the naval force, and an even longer time to get 
together the 5000 regular troops and 20,000 vol- 


unteers that would be needed, to say nothing of 
obtaining proper legislation from Congress. 
Equally discouraging were the opinions of the 
Cabinet officers. On March 15 Lincoln put to 
them the question: "Assuming it to be possible 
to now provision Fort Sumter, under all the cir- 
cumstances is it wise to attempt it?" Only Chase 
and Blair replied that it would be wise ; Seward, 
Cameron, Welles, Smith and Bates were against it. 
The form of this question indicated that Lincoln 
contemplated a possibility of being compelled to 
recede from the policy expressed in his inaugural. 
Yet it was not his temperament to abandon a 
purpose deliberately matured and definitely an- 
nounced, except under absolute necessity. To de- 
termine now this question of necessity he sent an 
emissary to Sumter and another to Charleston, 
and meantime stayed offensive action on the part 
of the Confederates by authorizing Seward to give 
assurance through Judge Campbell that no provi- 
sioning or reinforcement should be attempted with- 
out warning. Thus he secured, or continued, a 
sort of truce, irregular and informal, but practical. 
Meantime he was encouraged by the earnest pro- 
positions of Mr. G. V. Fox, until lately an officer 
of the navy, who was ready to undertake the relief 
of the fort. Eager discussions ensued, wherein 
naval men backed the project of Mr. Fox, and 
army men condemned it. Such difference of ex- 
pert opinion was trying, for the problem was of a 
kind which Mr. Lincoln's previous experience in 


life did not make it easy for him to solve with any 
confidence in the correctness of his own judgment. 

Amid this puzzlement day after day glided by, 
and the question remained unsettled. Yet during 
this lapse of time sentiment was ripening, and per- 
haps this was the real purpose of Lincoln's patient 
waiting. On March 29 his ministers again put 
their opinions in writing, and now Chase, Welles 
and Blair favored an effort at reinforcement ; Bates 
modified his previous opposition so far as to say 
that the time had come either to evacuate or relieve 
the fort; Smith favored evacuation, but only on 
the ground of military necessity ; and Seward alone 
advocated evacuation in part on the ground of pol- 
icy; he deemed it unwise to "provoke a civil war," 
especially "in rescue of an untenable position." 

Was it courtesy or curiosity that induced the 
President to sit and listen to this warm debate 
between his chosen advisers? They would have 
been angry had they known that they were bring- 
ing their counsel to a chief who had already made 
his decision. They did not yet know that upon 
every occasion of great importance Lincoln would 
make up his mind for and by himself, yet would 
not announce his decision, or save his counsellors 
the trouble of counselling, until such time as he 
should see fit to act. So in this instance he had 
already, the day before the meeting of the Cabinet, 
directed Fox to draw up an order for such ships, 
men, and supplies as he would require, and when 
the meeting broke up he at once issued formal 


orders to the Secretaries of the Navy and of War 
to enter upon the necessary preparation. 

Contemporaneously with this there was also un- 
dertaken another enterprise for the relief of Fort 
Pickens at Pensacola. It was, however, kept so 
strictly secret that the President did not even 
communicate it to Mr. Welles. Apparently his 
only reason for such extreme reticence lay in the 
proverb: "If you wish your secret kept, keep it." 
But proverbial wisdom had an unfortunate result 
upon this occasion. Both the President and 
Mr. Welles set the eye of desire upon the warship 
Powhatan, lying in New York harbor. The Sec- 
retary designed her for the Sumter fleet ; the Pres- 
ident meant to send her to Pensacola. Of the 
Sumter expedition she was an absolutely essential 
part ; for the Pensacola plan she was not altogether 

On April 6 Captain Mercer, on board the Pow- 
hatan as his flagship, and on the very point of 
weighing anchor to sail in command of the Sum- 
ter reinforcement, under orders from Secretary 
Welles, was astounded to find himself dispossessed 
and superseded by Lieutenant Porter, who sud- 
denly came upon the deck bringing an order signed 
by the President himself. A few hours later, at 
Washing-ton, a telegram startled Mr. Welles with 
the news. Utterly confounded, he hastened, in 
the early night time, to the White House, and 
obtained an audience of the President. Then 
Mr. Lincoln learned what a disastrous blunder he 


had made; greatly mortified, he requested Mr. 
Seward to telegraph with all haste to New York 
that the Powhatan must be immediately restored 
to Mercer for Sumter. Lieutenant Porter was 
already far down the bay, when he was overtaken 
by a swift tug bringing this message. But unfor- 
tunately Mr. Seward had so phrased the dispatch 
that it did not purport to convey an order either 
from the President or the Secretary of the Navy, 
and he had signed his own name : " Give up the 
Powhatan to Mercer. Seward." To Porter, 
hurriedly considering this unintelligible occurrence, 
it seemed better to go forward under the Presi- 
dent's order than to obey the order of an official 
who had no apparent authority to command him. 
So he steamed on for Pensacola. 

On April 8, discharging the obligation of warn- 
ing, Mr. Lincoln notified General Beauregard that 
an attempt would be made to put provisions into 
Sumter, but not at present to put in men, arms, 
or ammunition, unless the fort should be attacked. 
Thereupon Beauregard, at two o'clock p. m. on 
April 11, sent to Anderson a request for a sur- 
render. Anderson refused, remarking incidentally 
that he should be starved out in a few days. At 
3.20 A. M., on April 12, Beauregard notified An- 
derson that he should open fire in one hour. That 
morning the occupants of Sumter, 9 commissioned 
officers, 68 non-commissioned officers and privates, 
8 musicians, and 43 laborers, breakfasted on pork 
and water, the last rations in the fort. Before 


daybreak the Confederate batteries were pouring 
shot and shell against the walls. Response was 
made from as many guns as the small body of 
defenders could handle. But the fort was more 
easily damaged than were the works on the main- 
land, and on the morning of the 13th, the officers' 
quarters having caught fire, and the magazine be- 
ing so imperilled that it had to be closed and cov- 
ered with earth, the fort became untenable. Early 
in the evening terms of capitulation were agreed 

Meantime three transports of the relief expedi- 
tion were lying outside the bar. The first arrived 
shortly before the bombardment began, the other 
two came only a trifle later. All day long these 
vessels lay to, wondering why the Powhatan did 
not appear. Had she been there upon the critical 
night of the 12th, the needed supplies could have 
been thrown into the fort, for the weather was so 
dark that the rebel patrol was useless, and it was 
actually believed in Charleston that the relief had 
been accomplished. But the Powhatan was far 
away steaming at full speed for Pensacola. For 
this sad blimder Lincoln generously, but fairly 
enough, took the blame to himself. The only ex- 
cuse which has ever been advanced in behaK of 
Mr. Lincoln is that he allowed himseK to be led 
blindfold through this important business by Mr. 
Seward, and that he signed such papers as the 
Secretary of State presented to him without learn- 
ing their purport and bearing. But such an ex- 


cuse, even if it can be believed, seems fully as bad 
as tbe blunder which it is designed to palliate. 

Other blame also has been laid upon Lincoln on 
the ground that he was dilatory in reaching the 
determination to relieve the fort. That the deci- 
sion should have been reached and the expedition 
dispatched more promptly is entirely evident ; but 
whether or not Lincoln was in fault is quite an- 
other question. Three facts are to be considered : 
1. The highest military authority in the country 
advised him, a civilian, that evacuation was a 
necessity. 2. Most of his ministers were at first 
against reinforcement, and they never unanimously 
recommended it; especially his Secretary of State 
condemned it as bad policy. 3. The almost uni- 
versal feeling of the people at the North, so far as 
it could then be divined, was compromising, con- 
ciliatory, and thoroughly opposed to any act of 
war. Under such circumstances it was rather an 
exhibition of independence and courage that Lin- 
coln reached the conclusion of relieving the fort at 
all, than it was a cause of fault-finding that he did 
not come to the conclusion sooner. He could not 
know in March how the people were going to feel 
after the 13th of April; in fact, if they had fan- 
cied that he was provoking hostilities, their feeling 
might not even then have developed as it did. 
Finally, he gained his point in forcing the Confed- 
eracy into the position of assailant, and there is 
every reason to believe that he bought that point 
cheaply at the price of the fortress. 


The news of the capture of Sumter had an in- 
stant and tremendous effect. The States which 
had seceded were thrown into a pleasurable fer- 
ment of triumph; the Northern States arose in 
fierce wrath; the Middle States, still balancing 
dubiously between the two parties, were rent with 
passionate discussion. For the moment the North 
seemed a unit; there had been Southern sympa- 
thizers before, and Southern sympathizers appeared 
in considerable numbers later, but for a little 
while just now they were very scarce. Douglas at 
once called upon the President, and the telegraph 
carried to his numerous followers throughout the 
land the news that he had pledged himself "to sus- 
tain the President in the exercise of all his con- 
stitutional functions to preserve the Union, and 
maintain the government, and defend the Federal 
capital." By this prompt and generous action he 
warded off the peril of a divided North. Douglas 
is not in quite such good repute with posterity as 
he deserves to be; his attitude towards slavery 
was bad, but his attitude towards the country was 
that of a zealous patriot. His veins were full of 
fighting blood, and he was really much more ready 
to go to war for the Union than were great num- 
bers of Republicans whose names survive in the 
strong odor of patriotism. During the presiden- 
tial campaign he had been speaking out with de- 
fiant courage regardless of personal considerations, 
and in this present juncture he did not hesitate an 
instant to brinsr to his successful rival an aid which 


at tlie time and under the circumstances was inval- 

In every town and village there were now mass- 
meetings, ardent speeches, patriotic resolutions, a 
confusing stir and tumult of words that would be- 
come deeds as fast as definite plans could furnish 
opportunity. The difficulty lay in utilizing this 
abundant, this exuberant zeal. Historians say 
rhetorically that the North sprang to arms; and it 
really would have done so if there had been any 
arms to spring to; but muskets were scarce, and 
that there were any at all was chiefly due to the 
fact that antiquated and unserviceable weapons 
had been allowed to accumulate undestroyed. 
Moreover, no one knew even the manual of arms ; 
and there were no uniforms, or accoutrements, or 
camp equipment of any sort. There was, how- 
ever, the will which makes the way. Simultane- 
ously with the story of Sumter came also the Pres- 
ident's Proclamation of April 15. He called for 
seventy -five thousand volunteers to serve for three 
months, — an insignificant body of men, as it now 
seems, and a period of time not sufficient to 
change them from civilians into soldiers. Yet for 
the work immediately visible the demand seemed 
adequate. Moreover, as the law stood, a much 
longer term could not have been named, ^ and an 

^ The Act of 1795 only permitted the vise of the militia imtil 
thirty days after the next session of Congress ; this session being 
now summoned for July 4, the period of service extended only 
until August 3. 


apparently disproportionate requisition in point of 
numbers might have been of injurious effect; for 
nearly every one was cheerfully saying that the 
war would be no such very great affair after all. 
In his own mind the President may or may not 
have forecast the future more accurately than most 
others were doing; but his idea plainly was to ask 
no more than was necessary for the visible occa- 
sion. He stated that the troops would be used to 
"repossess the forts, places, and property which 
had been seized from the Union," and that great 
care would be taken not to disturb peaceful citi- 
zens. Amid all the prophesying and theorizing, 
and the fancifid comparisons of the respective 
fighting qualities of the Northern and Southern 
populations, a sensible remark is attributed to 
Lincoln : " We must not forget that the people of 
the seceded States, like those of the loyal States, 
are American citizens with essentially the same 
characteristics and powers. Exceptional advan- 
tages on one side are counterbalanced by excep- 
tional advantages on the other. We must make 
up our minds that man for man the soldier from 
the South will be a match for the soldier from the 
North, and mce versa.^^ This was good common 
sense, seasonably offsetting the prevalent but fool- 
ish notion that the Southerners were naturally a 
better fighting race than the Northerners. Facts 
ultimately sustained Lincoln's just estimate of 
equality; for though the North employed far 
greater numbers than did the South, it was be- 


cause the North had the burdens of attack and 
conquest upon exterior lines of great extent, be- 
cause it had to detail large bodies of troops for 
mere garrison and quasi-police duty, and because 
during the latter part of the war it took miser- 
able throngs of bounty-bought foreigners into its 
ranks. Man for man, as Lincoln said at the out- 
set, the war proved that northern Americans and 
southern Americans were closely matched.^ 

By the same instrument the President summoned 
Congress to assemble in extra session on July 4. 
It seemed a distant date ; and many thought that 
the Executive Department ought not to endeavor 
to handle alone all the possible novel developments 
of so long a period. But Mr. Lincoln had his 
purposes. By July 4 he and circumstances, to- 
gether, would have wrought out definite conditions, 
which certainly did not exist at present; perhaps 
also, like most men who find themselves face to 
face with difficult practical affairs, he dreaded the 
conclaves of the law-makers; but especially he 
wished to give Kentucky a chance to hold a spe- 
cial election for choosing members of this Congress, 
because the moral and political value of Kentucky 
could hardly be overestimated, and the most tact- 
ful manoeuvring was necessary to control her. 

^ When General Grant took command of the Eastern armies he 
said that the country should he cautioned against expecting too 
great success, because the loyal and rebel armies were made up 
of men of the same race, having about the same experience in 
war, and neither able justly to claim any great superiority over 
the other in endurance, courage or discipline. Chittenden, Re- 
coil., 320. 


The Confederate Cabinet was said to have 
greeted Mr. Lincoln's Proclamation with "bursts 
of laughter." The governors of Kentucky, North 
Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri tele- 
graphed that no troops would be furnished by 
their respective States, using language clearly 
designed to be offensive and menacing. The 
Northern States, however, responded promptly and 
enthusiastically. Men thronged to enlist. Hun- 
dreds of thousands offered themselves where only 
75,000 could be accepted. Of the human raw 
material there was excess; but discipline and 
equipment could not be created by any measure 
of mere willingness. Yet there was great need 
of dispatch. Both geographically and politically 
Washington lay as an advanced outpost in imme- 
diate peril. General Scott had been collecting the 
few companies within reach; but all, he said on 
April 8, "may be too late for this place." By 
April 15, however, he believed himseK able to 
hold the city till reinforcements should arrive. 
The total nominal strength of the United States 
army, officers and men, was only 17,113, of whom 
not two thirds could be counted upon the Union 
side, and even these were scattered over a vast 
expanse of country, playing police for Indians, 
and garrisoning distant posts. Rumors of South- 
ern schemes to attack Washington caused wide- 
spread alarm; the government had no more defi- 
nite information than the people, and all alike 
feared that there was to be a race for the capital, 


and that the South, being near and prepared, 
would get there first. As matter of fact the South- 
ern leaders had laid no military plan for this en- 
terprise, and the danger was exaggerated. The 
Northerners, however, did not know this, and 
made desperate haste. 

The first men to arrive came from Philadelphia, 
460 troops, as they were called, though they came 
"almost entirely without arms." In Massachu- 
setts, Governor Andrew, an anti-slavery leader, 
enthusiastic, energetic, and of great executive 
ability, had been for many months preparing the 
militia for precisely this crisis, weeding out the 
holiday soldiers and thoroughly equipping his regi- 
ments for service in the field. For this he had 
been merrily ridiculed by the aristocracy of Bos- 
ton during the winter; but inexorable facts now 
declared for him and against the local aristocrats. 
On April 15 he received the call from Washing- 
ton, and immediately sent forth his own summons 
through the State. All day on the 16th, amid a 
fierce northeasterly storm, the troops poured into 
Boston, and by six o'clock on that day three full 
regiments were ready to start. ^ Three days be- 
fore this the governor had asked Secretary Cam- 
eron for 2000 rifled muskets from the national 
armory at Springfield, in the State. The Secre- 
tary refused, and the governor managed to supply 
his regiment with the most improved arms ^ with- 

1 The third, fourth and sixth. Schouler, Mass, in the Civil 
War, i. 52. 

2 Ibid., i. 72. 


out aid from the national government. On the 
forenoon of the 17th, the Sixth Regiment started 
for Washington. Steamers were ready to take it 
to Annapolis; but the Secretary of War, with 
astonishing ignorance of facts easily to be known, 
ordered it to come through Baltimore. Accord- 
ingly the regiment reached Baltimore on the 19th, 
the anniversary of the battle of Lexington. Seven 
companies were transported in horse-cars from the 
northern to the southern station without serious 
hindrance; but then the tracks of the street rail- 
way were torn up, and the remaining four com- 
panies had to leave the cars and march. A furi- 
ous mob of "Plug Uglies" and Secessionists 
assailed them with paving-stones, brickbats, and 
pistol shots. The mayor and the marshal of the 
police force performed fairly their official duty, 
but were far from quelling the riot. The troops, 
therefore, thrown on their own resources, justi- 
fiably fired upon their assailants. The result of 
the conflict was that 4 soldiers were killed, and 36 
were wounded, and of the rioters, 12 were killed, 
and the number of wounded could not be ascer- 
tained. The troops reached Washington at five 
o'clock in the afternoon, the first armed rescuers 
of the capital ; their presence brought a comforting 
sense of relief, and they were quartered in the 
Senate chamber itself. 

What would be the effect of the Proclamation, 
of the mustering of troops in the capital, and 


of the bloodshed at Baltimore upon the slave 
States which still remained in the Union was a 
problem of immeasurable importance. The Presi- 
dent, who had been obliged to take the responsi- 
bility of precipitating the crisis in these States, 
appreciated more accurately than any one else the 
magnitude of the stake involved in their alle- 
giance. He watched them with the deepest anxi- 
ety, and brought the utmost care and tact of his 
nature to the task of influencing them. The geo- 
graphical position of Maryland, separating the 
District of Columbia from the loyal North, made 
it of the first consequence. The situation there, 
precarious at best, seemed to be rendered actually 
hopeless by what had occurred. A tempest of un- 
controllable rage whirled away the people and 
prostrated all Union feeling. Mayor Brown ad- 
mits that "for some days it looked very much as 
if Baltimore had taken her stand decisively with 
the South;" and this was putting it mildly, when 
the secessionist Marshal Kane was telegraphing: 
"Streets red with Maryland blood. Send express 
over the mountains of Maryland and Virginia for 
the riflemen to come without delay." Governor 
Hicks was opposed to secession, but he was shaken 
like a reed by this violent blast. Later on this 
same April 19, Mayor Brown sent three gentlemen 
to President Lincoln, bearing a letter from him- 
self, in which he said that it was "not possible for 
more soldiers to pass through Baltimore unless 
they fight their way at every step." That night 


he caused the northward railroad bridges to be 
burned and disabled; and soon afterward the tele- 
graph wires were cut. 

The President met the emergency with coolness 
and straightforward simplicity, abiding firmly by 
his main purpose, but conciliatory as to means. 
He wrote to the governor and the mayor: "For 
the future troops must be brought here, but I 
make no point of bringing them through Balti- 
more;" he would "march them around Balti- 
more," if, as he hoped. General Scott should find 
it feasible to do so. In fulfilment of this promise 
he ordered a detachment, which had arrived at a 
station near Baltimore, to go all the way back to 
Philadelphia and come around by water. He only 
demurred when the protests were extended to in- 
clude the whole "sacred" soil of Maryland, — for 
it appeared that the presence of slavery accom- 
plished the consecration of soil! His troops, he 
said, could neither fly over the State, nor burrow 
under it; therefore they must cross it, and the 
Marylanders must learn that "there was no piece 
of American soil too good to be pressed by the 
foot of a loyal soldier on his march to the defense 
of the capital of his country." For a while, how- 
ever, until conditions in Baltimore changed. East- 
ern regiments came by way of Annapolis, though 
with difficulty and delay. Yet even upon this 
route, conflict was narrowly avoided. 

Soon, however, these embarrassments came to 
an end, and the President's policy was vindicated 


by its fruits. It had been strictly his own ; he alone 
ruled the occasion, and he did so in the face of severe 
pressure to do otherwise, some of which came even 
from members of his Cabinet. Firmness, reasona- 
bleness and patience brought things right ; Lincoln 
spoke sensibly to the Marylanders, and gave them 
time to consider the situation. Such treatment 
started a reaction ; Unionism revived and Union- 
ists regained courage. Moreover the sure pres- 
sure of material considerations was doing its work. 
Baltimore, as an isolated secession outpost, found, 
even in the short space of a week, that business 
was destroyed and that she was suffering every 
day financial loss. In a word, by the end of the 
month, "the tide had turned." Baltimore, if not 
quite a Union city, at least ceased to be secession- 
ist. On May 9 Northern troops passed unmo- 
lested through it. On May 13 General Butler 
with a body of troops took possession of Federal 
Hill, which commands the harbor and city, and 
fortified it. If the Baltimore question was still 
open at that time, this settled it. Early in the 
same month the state legislature came together, 
Mr. Lincoln refusing to accept the suggestion of 
interfering with it. This body was by no means 
Unionist, for it "protested against the war as un- 
just and unconstitutional, announced a determi- 
nation to take no part in its prosecution, and 
expressed a desire for the immediate recognition of 
the Confederate States." Yet practically it put 
a veto on secession by voting that it was inexpedi- 


ent to summon a convention ; it called on all good 
citizens " to abstain from violent and unlawful inter- 
ference with the troops." Thus early in May this 
brand, though badly scorched, was saved from the 
conflagration ; and its saving was a piece of good 
fortune of which the importance cannot be exag- 
gerated; for without Maryland Washington could 
hardly have been held, and with the national capi- 
tal in the hands of the rebels European recog- 
nition probably could not have been prevented. 
These momentous perils were in the mind of the 
administration during those anxious days, and 
great indeed was the relief when the ultimate 
turn of affairs became assured. For a week offi- 
cials in Washington were painfully taught what 
it would mean to have Baltimore a rebel city 
and Maryland a debatable territory and battle 
ground. For a week Mr. Lincoln and his advis- 
ers lived almost in a state of siege; they were 
utterly cut off from communication with the 
North; they could get no news; they could not 
learn what was doing for their rescue, nor how 
serious were the obstructions in the way of such 
efforts ; in place of correct information they heard 
only the most alarming rumors. In a word, they 
were governing a country to which they really had 
no access. The tension of those days was awful; 
and it was with infinite comfort that they became 
certain that whatever other strain might come, 
this one at least could not be repeated. Hence- 
forth the loyalty of Maryland, so carefully nur- 


tured, gradually grew in strength to the end. 
Many individuals long remained in their hearts 
disloyal, and thousands^ joined the Confederate 
ranks ; but they had to leave their State in order 
to get beneath a secessionist standard, for Mary- 
land was distinctly and conclusively in the Union. 
The situation, resources and prestige of Vir- 
ginia made her next to Maryland in importance 
among the doubtful States. Her Unionists were 
numerically preponderant; and accordingly the 
Convention, which assembled early in January, 
was opposed to secession by the overwhelming 
majority of 89 to 45. But the Secessionists here 
as elsewhere in the South were propagandists, fiery 
with enthusiasm and energy, and they controlled 
the community although they were outnumbered 
by those who held, in a more quiet way, contrary 
opinions. When the decisive conflict came it was 
short and sharp and carried with a rush. By in- 
trigue, by menace, by passionate appeals season- 
ably applied with sudden intensity of effort at the 
time of the assault upon Sumter, the convention 
was induced to pass an ordinance of secession. 
Those who could not bring themselves to vote in 
the affirmative were told that they might "absent 
themselves or be hanged." On the other hand, 
there were almost no lines along which the Presi- 
dent could project any influence into the State to 
encourage the Union sentiment. He sought an 

^ Mayor Brown thinks that the estimate of these at 20,000 is 
too great. Brown, Baltimore and Nineteenth April, 1861, p. 85. 


interview with a political leader, but the gentleman 
only sent a substitute, and the colloquy amounted 
to nothing. He fell in with the scheme of Gen- 
eral Scott concerning Robert E. Lee, which might 
have saved Virginia; but this also miscarried. 
General Lee has always been kindly spoken of at 
the North, whether deservedly or not is a matter not 
to be discussed here. Only a few bare facts and 
dates can be given : — April 17, by a vote of 88 to 
55, the dragooned Convention passed an "ordinance 
to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the 
United States," but provided that this action 
should for the present be kept secret, and that it 
might be annulled by the people at a popular vot- 
ing, which should be had upon it on the fourth 
Thursday in May. The injunction of secrecy was 
immediately broken, and before the polls were to 
be opened for the balloting Virginia was held by 
the military forces of the Confederacy, so that the 
vote was a farce. April 18 Mr. F. P. Blair, 
Jr., had an interview in Washington with Lee, 
in which he intimated to Lee that the President 
and General Scott designed to place him in com- 
mand of the army which had just been summoned.^ 
Accounts of this conversation, otherwise inconsist- 
ent, all agree that Lee expressed himself as op- 
posed to secession, 2 but as unwilling to occupy the 

1 N. and H., iv. 98 ; Chittenden, 102 ; Lee's biographer, Childe, 
says that " President Lincoln offered him the effective command 
of the Union Army," and that Scott " conjured him . . . not to 
quit the army." Childe, Lee, 30. 

2 Shortly before this time he had written to his son that it was 


position designed for him, because he "could take 
no part in an invasion of the Southern States." 
April 20 he tendered his resignation of his com- 
mission in the army, closing with the words, 
"Save in defense of my native State, I never de- 
sire again to draw my sword. "^ On April 22-23 
he was appointed to, and accepted, the command 
of the state forces. In so accepting he said : " I 
devote myself to the service of my native State, in 
whose behalf alone will I ever again draw my 
sword." 2 April 24 a military league was formed 
between Virginia and the Confederate States, and 
her forces were placed under the command of 
Jefferson Davis; also an invitation was given, 
and promptly accepted, to make Richmond the 
Confederate capital. May 16 Virginia formally 
entered the Confederacy, and Lee became a general 
— the third in rank — in the service of the Con- 
federate States, though the secession of his State 
was still only inchoate and might never become 
complete, since the day set for the popular vote had 
not arrived, and it was still a possibility that the 
Unionists might find courage to go to the polls. 
Thus a rapid succession of events settled it that 

" Idle to talk of secession," that it was " nothing but revolution " 
and " anarchy." N. and H., iv. 99. 

^ ChUde, Lee, 32 ; Mr. Childe, p. 33, says that Lee's resigna- 
tion was accepted on the 20th (the very day on which his letter 
was dated!), so that he "ceased to he a member of the United 
States Army " before he took command of the state forces. Per 
contra, N. and H., iv. 101. 

2 Childe, Lee, 34. 


the President could save neither Virginia nor 
Robert E. Lee for the Union. Yet the failure 
was not entire. The northwestern counties were 
strongly Union in their proclivities, and soon fol- 
lowed to a good end an evil example; for they in 
turn seceded from Virginia, established a state 
government, sought admission into the Union, 
and became the State of West Virginia. 

Next in order of importance came Kentucky. 
The Secessionists, using here the tactics so success- 
ful in other States, endeavored to drive through 
by rush and whirl a formal act of secession. But 
the Unionists of Kentucky were of more resolute 
and belligerent temper than those of Georgia and 
Virginia, and would not submit to be swept away 
by a torrent really of less volume than their own.^ 
Yet in spite of the spirited head thus made by the 
loyalists the condition in the State long remained 
such as to require the most skilful treatment by 
the President; during several critical weeks one 
error of judgment, a single imprudence, upon his 
part might have proved fatal. For the condition 
was anomalous and perplexing, and the conflict of 
opinion in the State had finally led to the evolu- 
tion of a theory or scheme of so-called "neutral- 
ity." A similar notion had been imperfectly de- 
veloped in Maryland, when her legislature declared 
that she would take no part in a war. The idea 

^ Greeley in his Amer. Conflict, i. 349, says that the " open Seces- 
sionists were but a handful." This, howeyer, is clearly an exag- 
gerated statement. 


was illogical to the point of absurdity, for by it 
tbe "neutral" State would at once stay in tbe 
Union and stand aloof from it. Neutrality really 
signified a refusal to perform those obligations 
which nevertheless were admitted to be binding, 
and it made of the State a defensive barrier for 
the South, not to be traversed by Northern troops 
on an errand of hostility against Confederate 
Secessionists. It was practical "non -coercion" 
under a name of fairer sound, and it involved the 
inconsequence of declaring that the dissolution of 
an indissoluble Union should not be prevented; 
it was the proverbial folly of being "for the law 
but ag'in the enforcement of it." In the words of 
a resolution passed by a public meeting in Louis- 
ville: it was the "duty" of Kentucky to maintain 
her "independent position," taking sides neither 
with the administration nor with the seceding 
States, ''''hut with the Union against them hoth.^^ 
Nevertheless, though both logic and geography 
made neutrality impracticable, yet at least the de- 
sire to be neutral indicated a wavering condition, 
and therefore it was Mr. Lincoln's task so to 
arrange matters that, when the State should at last 
see that it could by no possibility avoid casting its 
lot with one side or the other, it should cast it with 
the North. For many weeks the two Presidents 
played the game for this invaluable stake with all 
the tact and skill of which each was master. It 
proved to be a repetition of the fable of the sun 
and the wind striving to see which could the bet- 


ter make the traveller take off his cloak, and for- 
tunately the patience of Mr. Lincoln represented 
the warmth of the sun. He gave the Kentuckians 
time to learn by observation and the march of 
events that neutrality was an impossibility, also to 
determine with which side lay the probable ad- 
vantages for themselves; also he respected the 
borders of the State during its sensitive days, 
though in doing so he had to forego some military 
advantages of time and position. Deliberation 
brought a sound conclusion. Kentucky never 
passed an ordinance of secession, but maintained 
her representation in Congress and contributed her 
quota to the armies ; and these invaluable results 
were largely due to this wise policy of the Presi- 
dent. Many of her citizens, of course, fought 
upon the Southern side, as was the case in all 
these debatable Border States where friends and 
even families divided against each other, and each 
man placed himself according to his own convic- 
tions. It may seem, therefore, in view of this 
individual independence of action, that the ordi- 
nance of secession was a formality which would 
not have greatly affected practical conditions; and 
many critics of Mr. Lincoln at the time could not 
appreciate the value of his "border-state policy," 
and thought that he was making sacrifices and 
paying prices wholly against wisdom, and out of 
proportion to anything that could be gained 
thereby. But he understood the situation and 
comparative values correctly. Loyalty to tha 


State governed multitudes ; preference of the State 
over the United States cost the nation vast num- 
bers of would-be Unionists in the seceding States, 
and in fact made secession possible; and the same 
feeling, erroneous though it was from the Unionist 
point of view, yet saved for the Unionist party- 
very great numbers in these doubtful States which 
never in fact seceded. Mr. Davis appreciated 
this just as Mr. Lincoln did; both were shrewd 
men and were wasting no foolish efPorts when they 
strove so hard to carry or to prevent formal state 
action. They appreciated very well that success 
in passing an ordinance would gain for the South 
throngs of adherents whose allegiance was, by their 
peculiar political creed, due to the winner in this 
local contest. 

In Tennessee the Unionist majority, as indi- 
cated early in February, was overwhelming. Out 
of a total vote of less than 92,000, more than 
67,000 opposed a State Convention. The moun- 
taineers of the eastern region especially were stal- 
wart loyalists and later held to their faith through 
the severe ordeal of a peculiarly cruel invasion. 
But the political value of these scattered settle- 
ments was small ; and in the more populous parts 
the Secessionists pursued their usual aggressive 
and enterprising tactics with success. Ultimately 
the governor and the legislature despotically com- 
pelled secession. It was not decreed by a popular 
vote, not even by a convention, but by votes of 
the legislature cast in secret session, a proceeding 


clearly ultra vires of that body. Finally, on June 
8, when a popular vote was taken, the State was 
in the military control of the Confederacy. 

Very similar was the case of North Carolina. 
The people of the uplands, like their neighbors of 
Tennessee, were Unionists, and in the rest of the 
State there was a prevalent Union sentiment; but 
the influence of the political leaders, their direct 
usurpations of power, and the customary energetic 
propagandism, ultimately won. After a conven- 
tion had been once voted down by popular vote, a 
second effort to bring one together was successfully 
made, and an ordinance of secession was passed 
on May 20. Arkansas was swept along with the 
stream, seceding on May 6, although prior to that 
time the votes both for holding a state convention 
and afterward in the convention itself had shown 
a decided Unionist preponderance. These three 
States, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas, 
were entirely beyond the reach of the President. 
He had absolutely no lines of influence along 
which he could work to restrain or to guide them. 

Missouri had a career peculiar to herself. In 
St. Louis there was a strong Unionist majority, 
and especially the numerous German population 
was thoroughly anti- slavery and was vigorously 
led by F. P. Blair, Jr. But away from her river- 
front the State had a sparse population preserving 
the rough propensities of frontiersmen; these men 
were not unevenly divided between loyalty and 
secession and they were an independent, fighting 


set of fellows, each one of whom intended to fol- 
low his own fancy. The result was that Missouri 
for a long while carried on a little war of her own 
within her own borders, on too large a scale to be 
called "bushwhacking," and yet with a strong 
flavor of that irregular style of conflict. The 
President interested himself a good deal in the 
early efforts of the loyalists, and amid a puzzling 
snarl of angry "personal politics" he tried to ex- 
tend to them aid and countenance, though with 
imperfect success. It was fortunate that Missouri 
was away on the outskirts, for she was the most 
vexatious and perplexing part of the country. 
Her population had little feeling of state allegiance 
or, indeed, of any allegiance at all, but what small 
amount there was fell upon the side of the Union; 
for though the governor and a majority of the 
legislature declared for secession, yet the State 
Convention voted for the Union by a large major- 
ity. It is true that a sham convention passed a 
sham ordinance, but this had no weight with any 
except those who were already Secessionists. 

Thus by the close of May, 1861, President 
Lincoln looked forth upon a spectacle tolerably 
definite at last, and certainly as depressing as 
ever met the eyes of a great ruler. Eleven States, 
with area, population and resources abundant for 
constituting a powerful nation and sustaining an 
awful war, were organized in rebellion ; their people 
were welded into entire unity of feeling, were en- 
thusiastically resolute, and were believed to be 


exceptionally good fighters. The population of 
three Border States was divided between loyalty 
and disloyalty. The Northern States, teeming 
with men and money, had absolutely no expe- 
rience whatsoever to enable them to utilize their 
vast resources with the promptitude needful in 
the instant emergency. There was a notion, pre- 
valent even among themselves, that they were by 
temperament not very well fitted for war ; but this 
fancy Mr. Lincoln quietly set aside, knowing bet- 
ter. He also had confidence in the efficiency of 
Northern men in practical affairs of any kind what- 
soever, and he had not to tax his patience to see 
this confidence vindicated. His appeal for mili- 
tary support seemed the marvellous word of a ma- 
gician and wrought instant transformation through- 
out the vast loyal territory. One half of the male 
population began to practice the manual, to drill, 
and to study the text-books of military science ; the 
remainder put at least equal energy into the pre- 
parations for equipment ; every manufacturer in the 
land set the proverbial Yankee enterprise and in- 
genuity at work in the adaptation of his machinery 
to the production of munitions of war and all the 
various outfit for troops. Every foundry, every 
mill and every shipyard was at once diverted from 
its accustomed industries in order to supply mili- 
tary demands ; patriotism and profit combined to 
stimulate sleepless toil and invention. In a hard- 
working community no one had ever before worked 
nearly so hard as now. The whole North was in 


a ferment, and every human being strained his 
abilities of mind and of body to the utmost in one 
serviceable direction or another; the wise and the 
foolish, the men of words and the men of deeds, 
the projectors of valuable schemes, and the ven- 
ders of ridiculous inventions, the applicants for 
military commissions and the seekers after the 
government's contracts, all hustled and crowded 
each other in feverish eagerness to get at work 
in the new condition of things. It was going to 
take time for all this energy to produce results 
— yet not a very long time; the President had 
more patience than would be needed, and the 
spirit of his people reassured him. If the luke- 
warm, compromising temper of the past winter 
had caused him to feel any lurking anxious doubts 
as to how the crisis would be met, such illusive 
mists were now cleared away in a moment before 
the sweeping gale of patriotism. 


The capture of Fort Sumter and the call for 
troops established one fact. There was to be a 
war. The period of speculation was over and the 
period of action had begun. The transition meant 
much. The talking men of the country had not 
appeared to advantage during the few months in 
which they had been busy chiefly in giving weak 
advice and in concocting prophecies. They now 
retired before the men of affairs, who were to do 
better. To the Anglo-Saxon temperament it was^ 
a relief to have done with waiting and to begin to 
do something. Activity cleared the minds of men, 
and gave to each his appropriate duty. 

The gravity of the crisis being undeniable, the 
people of the North queried, with more anxiety than 
ever before, as to what kind of a chief they had 
taken to carry them through it. But the question 
which all asked none could answer. Mr. Lincoln 
had achieved a good reputation as a politician and 
a stump speaker. Whatever a few might thinh, 
this was all that any one knew. The narrow lim- 
itations of his actual experience certainly did not 
encourage a belief in his probable fitness to en- 


counter duties more varied, pressing, numerous, 
novel and difficult than had ever come so suddenly 
to confound any ruler within recorded time. Later 
on, when it was seen with what rare capacity he 
met demands so exacting, many astonished and ex- 
citable observers began to cry out that he was in- 
spired. This, however, was sheer nonsense. That 
the very peculiar requirements of these four years 
found a president so well responding to them may 
fairly be regarded, by those who so please, as a 
specific Providential interference, — a striking one 
among many less striking. But, in fact, nothing 
in Mr. Lincoln's life requires, for its explanation, 
the notion of divine inspiration. His doings, one 
and all, were perfectly intelligible as the outcome 
of honesty of purpose, strong common sense, clear 
reasoning powers, and a singular sagacity in read- 
ing the popular mind. Intellectually speaking, a 
clear and vigorous thinking capacity was his chief 
trait. This sounds commonplace and uninterest- 
ing; but a more serviceable qualification could not 
have been given him. The truth is that it was 
part of the good fortune of the country that the 
President was not a brilliant man. Moreover, he 
was cool, shrewd, dispassionate, and self-possessed, 
and was endowed really in an extraordinary degree 
with an intermingling of patience and courage, 
whereby he was enabled both to await and to en- 
dure results. Above all he was a masterful man ; 
not all the time and in small matters, and not 
often in an opinionated way; but, from beginning 


to end, whenever he saw fit to be master, master 
he was.i 

This last fact, when it became known, answered 
another question which people were asking: In 
whose hands were the destinies of the North to be ? 
In those of Mr. Lincoln? or in those of the Cabi- 
net? or in those of influential advisers, something 
like what have been called "favorites" in Europe, 
and "kitchen cabinet" in the more homely phrase 
of the United States? The early impression was 
that Mr. Lincoln did not know a great deal. How 
could he? Where and how could he have learned 
much? It must be admitted that it was entirely 
natural that his advisers, and other influential men 
concerned in public affairs should adopt and act 
upon the theory that Mr. Lincoln, emerging so 
sharply from such a past as his had been, into 
such a crisis as was now present, must need a 
vast amount of instruction, guidance, suggestion. 
Accordingly there were many gentlemen who stood 
ready, not to say eager, to supply these fancied 
wants; and who could have supplied them very 
well, had they existed. Therefore one of the first 
things which Mr. Lincoln had to do was, without 
antagonizing Mr. Seward and Mr. Chase, to indi- 
cate to them that they were to be not only in name 
but also in rigid fact his Secretaries, and that he 
was in fact as weU as by title President. This 

^ So said Hon. Geo. W. Julian, somewhat ruefully acknowledg- 
ing that Lincoln " was always himself the President." PoliU 
Recoil, 190. 


delicate business was done so soon as opportunity 
offered, not in any disguised way but with plain 
simplicity. Mr. Chase never took the disposition 
quite pleasantly. He managed his department 
with splendid ability, but in the personal relation 
of a Cabinet adviser upon the various matters of 
governmental policy he was always somewhat un- 
comfortable to get along with, inclined to fault- 
finding, ever ready with discordant suggestions, 
and in time also disturbed by ambition. 

Mr. Seward behaved far better. After the 
question of supremacy had been settled, though in 
a way quite contrary to his anticipation, he frankly 
accepted the subordinate position, and discharged 
his duties with hearty good-will. Indeed this set- 
tlement had already come, before the time which 
this narrative has reached; but the people did 
not know it ; it was a private matter betwixt the 
two men who had been parties to it. Only Mr. 
Lincoln and Mr. Seward knew that the Secretary 
had suggested his willingness to run the govern- 
ment for the President, and that the President 
had replied that he intended to run it himself. 
It came about in this way: on April 1 Mr. 
Seward presented, in writing, "Some thoughts 
for the President's consideration." He opened 
with the statement, not conciliatory, that "We 
are at the end of a month's administration, and 
yet without a policy, either domestic or foreign." 
He then proceeded to offer suggestions for each. 
For the "policy at home" he proposed, as the 


" ruling idea : " "Change the question before the 
public from one upon slavery, or about slavery, 
for a question upon Union or Disunion." It was 
odd and not complimentary that he should seem 
to forget or ignore that precisely this thing had 
already been attempted by Mr. Lincoln in his 
inaugural address. Also within a few days, as 
we all know now, events were to show that the 
attempt had been successful. Further comment 
upon the domestic policy of Mr. Seward is, there- 
fore, needless. But his scheme "For Foreign 
Nations " is more startling: — 

"I would demand explanations from Spain and 
France categorically at once. 

"I would seek explanations from Great Britain 
and Russia, and send agents into Canada, Mexico, 
and Central America, to rouse a vigorous spirit 
of independence on this continent against Euro- 
pean intervention. 

"And, if satisfactory explanations are not re- 
ceived from Spain and France, 

"Would convene Congress and declare war 
against them. 

"But whatever policy we adopt there must be 
an energetic prosecution of it. 

"For this purpose it must be somebody's busi- 
ness to pursue and direct it incessantly. 

"Either the President must do it himself, and 
be all the while active in it, or 

" Devolve it on some member of his Cabinet. 

"Once adopted, debates on it must end, and all 
agree and abide. 


"It is not in my especial province. 

"But I neither seek to evade nor assume respon- 

Suggestions so wild could not properly consti- 
tute material for "consideration" by the Presi- 
dent; but much consideration on the part of stu- 
dents of those times and men is provoked by the 
fact that such counsel emanated from such a source. 
The Secretary of State, heretofore the most dis- 
tinguished leader in the great Republican move- 
ment, who should by merit of actual achievement 
have been the Republican candidate for the presi- 
dency, and who was expected by a large part of 
the coimtry to save an ignorant president from 
bad blunders, was advancing a proposition to cre- 
ate pretexts whereby to force into existence a for- 
eign war upon a basis which was likely to set one 
half of the civilized world against the other half. 
The purpose for which he was willing to do this 
awful thing was : to paralyze for a while domestic 
discussions, and to undo and leave to be done anew 
by the next generation all that vast work which he 
himself, and the President whom he advised, and 
the leaders of the great multitude whom they both 
represented, had for years been engaged in prose- 
cuting with all the might that was in them. But 
the explanation is simple: like many another at 
that trying moment, the Secretary was smitten 
with sudden panic at the condition which had been 
brought about so largely by his own efforts. It 
was strictly a panic, for it passed away rapidly as 
panics do. 


The biographer of Mr. Seward may fairly 
enough glide lightly over this episode, since it was 
nothing more than an episode; but one who writes 
of Mr. Lincoln must, in justice, call attention to 
this spectacle of the sage statesman from whom, 
if from any one, this "green hand," this inex- 
perienced President must seek guidance, thus in 
deliberate writing pointing out a course which was 
ridiculous and impossible, and which, if it had been 
possible, would have been an intolerably humiliat- 
ing retreat. The anxious people, who thought 
that their untried President might, upon the worst 
estimate of his own abilities, get on fairly well 
by the aid of wise and skilled advisers, would 
have been aghast had they known that, inside of 
the government, the pending question was: not 
whether Mr. Lincoln would accept sound in- 
struction, but whether he would have sense to 
recognize bad advice, and independence to reject 
it. Before Mr. Seward went to bed on that night 
of April 1, he was perhaps the only man in the 
country who knew the solution of this problem. 
But he knew it, for Mr. Lincoln had already 
answered his letter. It had not taken the Presi- 
dent long! The Secretary's extraordinary offer 
to assume the responsibility of pursuing and di- 
recting the policy of the government was rejected 
within a few hours after it was made; rejected 
not offensively, but briefly, clearly, decisively, and 
without thanks. Concerning the proposed policies, 
domestic and foreign, the President said as little 


as was called for ; he actually did not even refer 
to the scheme for inaugurating gratuitously a war 
with a large part of Europe, in order for a while 
to distract attention from slavery. 

To us, to-day, it seems that the President could 
not have missed a course so obvious; yet Mr. 
Seward, who suggested the absurdity, was a great 
statesman. In truth, the President had shown not 
only sense but nerve. For the difference between 
Seward's past opportunities and experience and 
his own was appreciated by him as fully as by any 
one. He knew perfectly well that what seemed 
the less was controlling what seemed the greater 
when he over-ruled his secretary. It took courage 
on the part of a thoughtful man to put himself in 
such a position. Other solemn reflections also 
could not be avoided. Not less interested than 
any other citizen in the fate of the nation, he had 
also a personal relation to the ultimate event which 
was exclusively his own. For he himself might 
be called, in a certain sense, the very cause of re- 
bellion ; of course the people who had elected him 
carried the real responsibility; but he stood as the 
token of the difference, the concrete provocation 
to the fight. The South had said: Abraham Lin- 
coln brings secession. It was frightful to think 
that, as he was in fact the signal, so posterity 
might mistake him for the very cause, of the rend- 
ing of a great nation, the failure of a grand exper- 
iment. It might be that this destiny was before 
him, for the outcome of this struggle no one could 


foretell ; it might be his sad lot to mark the end of 
the line of Presidents of the United States. Lin- 
coln was not a man who could escape the full 
weight of these reflections, and it is to be remem- 
bered that all his actions were taken beneath that 
weight. It was a strong man, then, who stood up 
and said, This is my load and I will carry it; and 
who did carry it, when others offered to shift much 
of it upon their own shoulders; also who would 
not give an hour's thought to a scheme which 
promised to lift it away entirely and to leave it for 
some other who by and by should come after him. 
It is worth while to remember that Mr. Lincoln 
was the most advised man, often the worst advised 
man, in the annals of mankind. The torrent must 
have been terribly confusing! Another instance 
deserves mention: shortly before Mr. Seward's 
strange proposal. Governor Hicks, distracted at 
the tumult in Maryland, had suggested that the 
quarrel between North and South should be re- 
ferred to Lord Lyons as arbitrator ! It was diffi- 
cult to know whether to be amused or resentful 
before a proposition at once so silly and so igno- 
minious. Yet it came from an important official, 
and it was only one instance among thousands. 
With war as an actuality, such vagaries as those 
of Hicks and Seward came sharply to an end. 
People wondered and talked somewhat as to how 
long hostilities would last, how much they would 
cost, how they would end ; and were not more cor- 
rect in these speculations than they had been in 


others. But though the day of gross absurdities 
was over, the era of advice endured permanently. 
That peculiar national trait whereby every Ameri- 
can knows at least as much on every subject what- 
soever as is known by any other living man, pro- 
duced its full results during the war. Every 
clergyman and humanitarian, every village politi- 
cian and every city wire-puller, every one who 
conned the maps of Virginia and imbibed the mil- 
itary wisdom of the newspapers, every merchant 
who put his name to a subscription paper, consid- 
ered it his privilege and his duty to set the Presi- 
dent right upon every question of moral principle, 
of politics, of strategy, and of finance. In one 
point of view it was not flattering that he should 
seem to stand in need of so much instruction ; and 
this was equally true whether it came bitterly, as 
criticism from enemies, or sugar-coated, as advice 
from friends. That friends felt obliged to advise 
so much was in itself a criticism. Probably, how- 
ever, Mr. Lincoln was not troubled by this view, 
for he keenly appreciated the idiosyncracies as 
well as the better qualities of the people. They, 
however, were a long while in understanding him 
sufficiently to recognize that there was never a 
man whom it was less worth while to advise. 

Business crowded upon Mr. Lincoln, and the 
variety and novelty of it was without limit. On 
April 17 Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation 
offering "letters of marque and reprisal" to own- 


ers of private armed vessels. Two days later the 
President retorted by proclaiming a blockade of 
Confederate ports. ^ Of course this could not be 
made effective upon the moment. On March 4 
the nominal total of vessels in the navy was 90. 
Of these, 69 were classed as "available; " but only 
42 were actually in commission ; and even of these 
many were in Southern harbors, and fell into the 
hands of the Confederates; many more were upon 
foreign and distant stations. Indeed, the disper- 
sion was so great that it was commonly charged as 
having been intentionally arranged by secessionist 
officials under Mr. Buchanan. Also at the very 
moment when this proclamation was being read 
throughout the country, the great navy - yard of 
Gosport, at Norfolk, Virginia, "always the fav- 
ored depot" of the government, with all its work- 
shops and a great store of cannon and other muni- 
tions, was passing into the hands of the enemy. 
Most of the vessels and some other property were 
destroyed by Federals before the seizure was con- 
summated; nevertheless, the loss was severe. 
Moreover, even had all the vessels of the regular 
navy been present, they would have had other du- 
ties besides lying off Southern ports. Blockading 
squadrons, therefore, had to be improvised, and 
orders at once issued for the purchase and equip- 
ment of steam vessels from the merchant marine 

^ South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Lou- 
isiana and Texas, were covered by this proclamation; on April 
27, North Carolina and Virginia were added. 


and the coasting service. Fortunately the sum- 
mer season was at hand, so that these makeshifts 
were serviceable for many months during which 
better craft were rapidly got together by alteration 
and building. Three thousand miles of coast and 
many harbors were included within the blockade 
limits, and were distributed into departments un- 
der different commanders. Each commander was 
instructed to declare his blockade in force as soon 
as he felt able to make it tolerably effective, with 
the expectation of rapidly improving its efficiency. 
The beginning was, therefore, ragged, and was 
naturally criticised in a very jealous and hostile 
spirit by those foreign nations who suffered by it. 
Dangerous disputes threatened to arise, but were 
fortunately escaped, and in a surprisingly short 
time "Yankee" enterprise made the blockade too 
thorough for question. 

Amid the first haste and pressure it was in- 
geniously suggested that, since the government 
claimed jurisdiction over the whole country and 
recognized only a rebellion strictly so called, 
therefore the President could by proclamation 
simply close ports at will. Secretary Welles 
favored this course, and in the extra session of 
the summer of 1861 Congress passed a bill giving 
authority to Mr. Lincoln to pursue it, in his dis- 
cretion. Mr. Seward, with better judgment, said 
that it might be legal, but would certainly be un- 
wise. The position probably could have been suc- 
cessfully maintained by lawyers before a bench of 


judges ; but to have relied upon it in the teeth of 
the commercial interests and unfriendly sentiment 
of England and France would have been a fatal 
blunder. Happily it was avoided ; and the Presi- 
dent had the shrewdness to keep within a line 
which shut out technical discussion. Already he 
saw that, so far as relations with foreigners were 
concerned, the domestic theory of a rebellion, 
pure and simple, must be very greatly modified. 
In a word, that which began as rebellion soon de- 
veloped into civil war; the two were closely akin, 
but with some important differences. 

Nice points of domestic constitutional law also 
arose with the first necessity for action, opening 
the broad question as to what course should be 
pursued in doubtful cases, and worse still in those 
cases where the government could not fairly claim 
the benefit of a real doubt. The plain truth was 
that, in a condition faintly contemplated in the 
Constitution, many things not permitted by the 
Constitution must be done to preserve the Consti- 
tution. The present crisis had been very scantly 
and vaguely provided for by "the fathers." The 
instant that action became necessary to save the 
Union under the Constitution it was perfectly ob- 
vious that the Constitution must be stretched, 
transcended, and most liberally interlined, in a 
fashion which would furnish annoying arguments 
to the disaffected. The President looked over the 
situation, and decided, in the proverbial phrase, 
to take the bull by the horns; that which clearly 


ought to be done he would do, law or no law, 
doubt or no doubt. He would have faith that the 
people would sustain him; and that the courts 
and the lawyers, among whose functions it is to 
see to it that laws and statutes do not interfere too 
seriously with the convenience of the community, 
would arrive, in what subtle and roundabout way 
they might choose, at the conclusion that whatever 
must be done might be done. These learned gen- 
tlemen did their duty, and developed the "war 
powers" under the Constitution in a manner 
equally ingenious, comical, and sensible. But the 
fundamental basis was that necessity knows no 
law; every man in the country knew this, but the 
well-intentioned denied it, as matter of policy, 
while the ill-intentioned made such use of the op- 
portunities thus afforded to them as might have 
been expected. Among the "war Democrats," 
however, there was at least ostensible liberality. 

An early question related to the writ of habeas 
corjyus. The Maryland legislature was to meet on 
April 26, 1861, and was expected to guide the 
State in the direction of secession. Many influen- 
tial men urged the President to arrest the members 
before they could do this. He, however, conceived 
such an interference with a state government, in 
the present condition of popular feeling, to be im- 
politic. "We cannot know in advance," he said, 
"that the action will not be lawful and peaceful; " 
and he instructed General Scott to watch them, 
and in case they should make a movement towards 


arraying the people against the United States, to 
counteract it by "the bombardment of their cities, 
and, in the extremest necessity, the suspension of 
the writ of habeas corpus. ^^ This intimation that 
the suspension of the venerated writ was a measure 
graver than even bombarding a city, surely indi- 
cated sufficient respect for laws and statutes. The 
legislators restrained their rebellious ardor and 
proved the wisdom of Mr. Lincoln's moderation. 
In the autumn, however, the crisis recurred, and 
then the arrests seemed the only means of pre- 
venting the passage of an ordinance of secession. 
Accordingly the order was issued and executed. 
Public opinion upheld it, and Governor Hicks 
afterward declared his belief that only by this 
action had Maryland been saved from destruction. 
The privilege of habeas corpus could obviously, 
however, be made dangerously serviceable to dis- 
affected citizens. Therefore, April 27, the Presi- 
dent instructed General Scott: "If at any point 
on or in the vicinity of any military line which is 
now, or which shall be, used between the city of 
Philadelphia and the city of Washington, you find 
it necessary to suspend the writ of habeas corpus 
for the public safety, you . . . are authorized to 
suspend that writ." Several weeks elapsed before 
action was taken under this authority. Then, on 
May 25, John Merryman, recruiting in Maryland 
for the Confederate service, was seized and impris- 
oned in Fort McHenry. Chief Justice Taney 
granted a writ of habeas corpus. General Cad- 


walader replied that he held Merryman upon a 
charge of treason, and that he had authority under 
the President's letter to suspend the writ. The 
Chief Justice thereupon issued against the General 
an attachment for contempt, but the marshal was 
refused admittance to the fort. The Chief Justice 
then filed with the clerk, and also sent to the 
President, his written opinion, in which he said: 
"I understand that the President not only claims 
the right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus at 
his discretion, but to delegate that discretionary 
power to a military officer;" whereas, according 
to the view of his Honor, the power did not lie even 
with the President himself, but only with Con- 
gress. Warming to the discussion, he used pretty 
strong language, to the effect that, if authority 
entrusted to other departments could thus "be 
usurped by the military power at its discretion, 
the people . . . are no longer living under a gov- 
ernment of laws; but every citizen holds life, lib- 
erty, and property at the will and pleasure of the 
army officer in whose military district he may 
happen to be found." It was unfortunate that the 
country should hear such phrases launched by the 
Chief Justice against the President, or at least 
against acts done under orders of the President. 
Direct retort was of course impossible, and the dis- 
pute was in abeyance for a short time.^ But the 

^ For the documents in this case, and also for some of the more 
famous professional opinions thereon, see McPherson, Hist, of Re- 
hellion, 154 et seq.; also (of course from the side of the Chief- 


predilections of the judicial hero of the Dred Scott 
decision were such as to give rise to grave doubts 
as to whether or not the Union could be saved by 
any process which would not often run counter to 
his ideas of the law; therefore in this matter the 
President continued to exercise the useful and 
probably essential power, though taking care, for 
the future, to have somewhat more regard for form. 
Thus, on May 10, instead of simply writing a 
letter, he issued through the State Department a 
proclamation, authorizing the Federal commander 
on the Florida coast, "if he shall find it neces- 
sary, to suspend there the writ of habeas corpus.^'' 
In due time the assembling of Congress gave 
Mr. Lincoln the opportunity to present his side of 
the case. In his Message he said that arrests, and 
suspension of the writ, had been made "very 
sparingly;" and that if authority had been 
stretched, at least the question was pertinent: 
"Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and 
the government itself to go to pieces, lest that one 
be violated? " He, however, believed that in fact 
this question was not presented and that the law 
had not been violated. " The provision of the Con- 
stitution, that the privilege of the writ of Jiaheas 
corpus shall not be suspended unless when, in 
cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety 
may require it, is equivalent to a provision that 
such privilege may be suspended when, in cases of 

Justice), Tyler's Taney, 420-431 ; and see original draft of the 
President's Message on this subject ; N. and H., iv. 176. 


rebellion or invasion, the public safety does re- 
quire it." As between Congress and the Execu- 
tive, "the Constitution itself is silent as to which 
or who is to exercise the power; and as the pro- 
vision was plainly made for a dangerous emergency 
it cannot be believed that the f ramers of the instru- 
ment intended that in every case the danger 
should run its course until Congress could be 
called together, the very assembling of which might 
be prevented, as was intended in this case by the 

If it was difficult, it was also undesirable to 
confute the President's logic. The necessity for 
military arrests and for indefinite detention of the 
arrested persons was undeniable. Congress there- 
fore recognized the legality of what had been done, 
and the power was frequently exercised thereafter, 
and to great advantage. Of course mistakes oc- 
curred and subordinates made some arrests which 
had better have been left unmade ; but these bore 
only upon discretion in individual cases, not upon 
inherent right. The topic, however, was in itself 
a tempting one not only for the seriously disaf- 
fected, but for the far larger body of the quarrel- 
some, who really wanted the government to do its 
work, yet maliciously liked to make the process 
of doing it just as difficult and as disagreeable 
as possible. Later on, when the malcontent class 
acquired the organization of a distinct political 
body, no other charge against the administration 
proved so plausible and so continuously service- 


able as this. It invited to florid declamation 
profusely illustrated with impressive historical 
allusions, and to the free use of vague but grand 
and sonorous phrases concerning "usurpation," 
"the subjection of the life, liberty, and property 
of every citizen to the mere will of a military 
commander," and other like terrors. Unfortu- 
nately men much more deserving of respect than 
the Copperheads, men of sound loyalty and high 
ability, but of anxious and conservative tempera- 
ment, were led by their fears to criticise severely 
arrests of men who were as dangerous to the 
government as if they had been soldiers of the 

May 3, 1861, by which time military exigencies 
had become better understood, Mr. Lincoln called 
"into the service of the United States 42,034 
volunteers," and directed that the regular army 
should be increased by an aggregate of 22,714 
officers and enlisted men. More suggestive than 
the mere increase was the fact that the volunteers 
were now required "to serve for a period of three 
years, unless sooner discharged." The opinion of 
the government as to the magnitude of the task in 
hand was thus for the first time conveyed to the 
people. They received it seriously and without 

July 4, 1861, the Thirty-seventh Congress met 
in extra session, and the soundness of the Presi- 
dent's judgment in setting a day which had at first 
been condemned as too distant was proved. In 


the interval, nothing had been lost which could 
have been saved by the sitting of Congress ; while, 
on the other hand, the members had had the great 
advantage of having time to think soberly con- 
cerning the business before them, and to learn the 
temper and wishes of their constituents. 

Mr. Lincoln took great pains with his Message, 
which he felt to be a very important document. 
It was his purpose to say simply what events had 
occurred, what questions had been opened, and 
what necessities had arisen; to display the situa- 
tion and to state facts fairly and fully, but not 
apparently to argue the case of the North. Yet it 
was essential for him so to do this that no doubt 
could be left as to where the right lay. This 
peculiar process of argument by statement had 
constituted his special strength at the bar, and he 
now gave an excellent instance of it. He briefly 
sketched the condition of public affairs at the time 
when he assumed the government; he told the 
story of Sumter, and of the peculiar process 
whereby Virginia had been linked to the Confed- 
eracy. With a tinge of irony he remarked that 
whether the sudden change of feeling among the 
members of the Virginian Convention was "wrought 
by their great approval of the assault uj^on Sum- 
ter, or their great resentment at the government's 
resistance to that assault is not definitely known." 

He explained the effect of the neutrality theory 
of the Border States. "This," he said, "would 
be disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it 


would be the building of an impassable wall along 
the line of separation, — and yet not quite an im- 
passable one, for under the guise of neutrality, it 
would tie the hands of the Union men, and freely 
pass supplies to the insurrectionists. ... At a 
stroke it would take all the trouble off the hands 
of secession, except what proceeds from the exter- 
nal blockade." It would give to the disimionists 
"disunion, without a struggle of their own." 

Of the blockade and the calls for troops, he 
said: "These measures, whether strictly legal or 
not, were ventured upon under what appeared to 
be a popular demand and a public necessity, trust- 
ing then, as now, that Congress would ratify 
them." At the same time he stated the matter of 
the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which 
has been ah'cady referred to. 

Speaking of the doctrine that secession was 
lawful under the Constitution, and that it was not 
rebellion, he made plain the genuine significance 
of the issue thus raised: " It presents . . . the 
question whether a Constitutional Republic or 
Democracy, a government of the people by the 
same people, can or cannot maintain its territorial 
integrity against its own domestic foes. It pre- 
sents the question whether discontented individ- 
uals, too few in numbers to control the administra- 
tion according to the organic law in any case, can 
always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or 
any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any 
pretense, break up their government, and thus 


practically put an end to free government upon 
the earth. It forces us to ask: Is there in all 
Republics this inherent fatal weakness? Must a 
government of necessity be too strong for the lib- 
erties of its own people, or too weak to maintain 
its own existence? " The Constitution of the Con- 
federacy was a paraphrase with convenient adap- 
tations of the Constitution of the United States. 
A significant one of these adaptations was the 
striking out of the first three words, "We, the 
people," and the substitution of the words: "We, 
the deputies of the sovereign and independent 
States." "Why," said Mr. Lincoln, "why this 
deliberate pressing out of view the rights of men 
and the authority of the people? This is essen- 
tially a people's contest. On the side of the 
Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the 
world that form and substance of government 
whose leading object is to elevate the condition of 
men ... to afford to all an unfettered start and 
a fair chance in the race of life. . . . This is the 
leading object of the government for whose exist- 
ence we contend. I am most happy to believe that 
the plain people understand and appreciate this." 

Many persons, not gifted with the power of 
thinking clearly, were disturbed at what seemed to 
them a purpose to "invade" and to "subjugate" 
sovereign States, — as though a government could 
invade its own country or subjugate its own sub- 
jects! These phrases, he said, were producing 
"uneasiness in the minds of candid men" as to 


what would be the course of the government toward 
the Southern States after the suppression of the 
rebellion. The President assured them that he 
had no expectation of changing the views set forth 
in his inaugural address; that he desired "to pre- 
serve the government, that it may be administered 
for all as it was administered by the men who 
made it. Loyal citizens everywhere have a right 
to expect this, . . . and the government has no 
right to withhold or neglect it. It is not perceived 
that in giving it there is any coercion, any con- 
quest, or any subjugation." 

In closing he said that it was with the deepest 
regret that he had used the war power; but "in 
defense of the government, forced upon him, he 
could but perform this duty or surrender the exist- 
ence of the government." Compromise would 
have been useless, for "no popular government can 
long survive a marked precedent that those who 
carry an election can only save the government 
from immediate destruction by giving up the main 
point upon which the people gave the election." 
To those who would have had him compromise he 
explained that only the people themselves, not 
their servants, can safely reverse their own delib- 
erate decisions. He had no power to agree to 
divide the country which he had the duty to gov- 
ern. "As a private citizen the Executive could 
not have consented that these institutions shall 
perish; much less could he, in betrayal of so vast 
and so sacred a trust as these free people have 


confided to him. He felt that lie had no moral 
right to shrink, nor even to count the chances of 
his own life in what might follow." 

The only direct request made in the Message 
was that, to make "this contest a short and decis- 
ive one," Congress would "place at the control of 
the government for the work at least 400,000 men, 
and 1400,000,000. That number of men is about 
one tenth of those of proper ages within the re- 
gions where apparently all are willing to engage, 
and the sum is less than a twenty -third part of the 
money value owned by the men who seem ready 
to devote the whole." 

The Message was well received by the people, as 
it deserved to be. 

The proceedings of Congress can only be re- 
ferred to with brevity. Yet a mere recital of the 
names of the more noteworthy members of the 
Senate and the House must be intruded, if merely 
for the flavor of reminiscence which it will bring 
to readers who recall those times. In the Senate, 
upon the Republican side, there were Lyman 
Trumbull from Illinois, James Harlan and James 
W. Grimes from Iowa, William P. Fessenden 
from Maine, Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson 
from Massachusetts, Zachariah Chandler from 
Michigan, John P. Hale from New Hampshire, 
Benjamin F. Wade from Ohio, and John Sher- 
man, who was elected to fill the vacancy created 
by the appointment of Salmon P. Chase to the 
Treasury Department, David Wilmot from Penn- 


sylvania, filling the place of Simon Cameron, 
Henry B. Anthony from Rhode Island, Andrew 
Johnson from Tennessee, Jacob Collamer from 
Vermont, and James R. Doolittle from Wisconsin. 
On the Democratic side, there were: James A. 
McDougall of California, James A. Bayard and 
William Saulsbury of Delaware, Jesse D. Bright 
of Indiana, who was expelled February 5, 1862, 
John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky, who a little 
later openly joined the Secessionists, and was for- 
mally expelled December 4, 1861; he was suc- 
ceeded by Garrett Davis, an "American or Old 
Line Whig," by which name he and two senators 
from Maryland preferred to be described; James 
W. Nesmith of Oregon. Lane and Pomeroy, the 
first Senators from the free State of Kansas, were 
seated. In the House Galusha A. Grow, of Penn- 
sylvania, who had lately knocked down Mr. Keith 
of South Carolina in a fisticuff encounter on the 
floor of the Chamber, was chosen Speaker, over 
Francis P. Blair, Jr., of Missouri. Thaddeus 
Stevens of Pennsylvania was the most prominent 
man in the body. Among many familiar names 
in running down the list the eye lights upon 
James E. English of Connecticut; E. B. Wash- 
burne, Isaac N. Arnold and Owen Lovejoy of Il- 
linois; Julian, Voorhees, and Schuyler Colfax of 
Indiana; Crittenden of Kentucky; Roscoe Conk- 
liug, Reuben E. Fenton, and Erastus Corning of 
New York; George H. Pendleton, Vallandigham, 
Ashley, Shellabarger, and S. S. Cox of Ohio; Co- 


vode of Pennsylvania; Maynard of Tennessee. 
The members came together in very good temper ; 
and the great preponderance of Republicans se- 
cured dispatch in the conduct of business ; for the 
cliques which soon produced intestine discomfort 
in that dominant party were not yet developed. 
No ordinary legislation was entered upon ; but in 
twenty -nine working days seventy-six public Acts 
were passed, of which all but four bore directly 
upon the extraordinary emergency. The demands 
of the President were met, with additions: 500,000 
men and 1500,000,000 were voted; $207,000,000 
were appropriated to the army, and $56,000,000 
to the navy. August 6 Congress adjourned. 

The law-makers were treated, during their ses- 
sion, to what was regarded, in the inexperience of 
those days, as a spectacle of real war. During a 
couple of months past large bodies of men had 
been gathering together, living in tents, shoulder- 
ing guns and taking the name of armies. General 
Butler was in command at Fortress Monroe, and 
was faced by Colonel Magruder, who held the 
peninsrda between the York and the James rivers. 
Early in June the lieutenants of these two com- 
manders performed the comical fiasco of the "bat- 
tle " of Big Bethel. In this skirmish the Federal 
regiments fired into each other, and then retreated, 
while the Confederates withdrew; but in language 
of absurd extravagance the Confederate colonel 
reported that he had won a great victory, and 


Northern men flushed beneath the ridicule in- 
curred by the bkinder of their troops. 

A smaller affair at Vienna was more ridiculous ; 
several hundred soldiers, aboard a train of cars, 
started upon a reconnoissance, as if it had been a 
picnic. The Confederates fired upon them with a 
couple of small cannon, and they hastily took to 
the woods. When they got home they talked 
wisely about "masked batteries." But the shrewd- 
ness and humor of the people were not thus turned 
aside, and the "masked battery" long made the 
point of many a bitter jest. 

Up the river, Harper's Ferry was held by 
"Stonewall" Jackson, who was soon succeeded by 
J. E. Johnston. Confronting and watching this 
force was General Patterson, at Chambersburg, 
Pennsylvania, with a body of men rapidly growing 
to considerable numbers by the daily coming of 
recruits. Not very far away, southeastward, the 
main body of the Confederate army, under Beaure- 
gard, lay at Manassas, and the main body of the 
Federal army, under McDowell, was encamped 
along the Potomac. On May 23 the Northern ad- 
vance crossed that river, took possession of Arling- 
ton Heights and of Alexandria, and began work 
upon permanent defensive intrenchments in front 
of the capital. 

The people of the North knew nothing about 
war or armies. Wild with enthusiasm and excite- 
ment, they cheered the departing regiments, which, 
as they vaguely and eagerly fancied, were to begin 


fighting at once. Yet it was true that no one 
would stake his money on a "football team" 
which should go into a game trained in a time so 
short as that which had been allowed for bringing 
into condition for the manoeuvres and battle-fields 
of a campaign an army of thirty or forty thousand 
men, with staff and commissariat, and arms of in- 
fantry, cavalry, and artillery, altogether constitut- 
ing an organization vast, difficult, and complex in 
the highest degree of human cooperation. Never- 
theless "On to Richmond!" rolled up the imperi- 
ous cry from every part of the North. The gov- 
ernment, either sharing in this madness, or feeling 
that it must be yielded to, passed the word to the 
commander, and McDowell very reluctantly obeyed 
orders and started with his army in that direction, 
— not, however, with any real hope of reaching 
this nominal objective; for he was an intelligent 
man and a good soldier, and was perfectly aware of 
the unfitness of his army. But when, protesting, 
he suggested that his troops were "green," he was 
told to remember that the Southern troops were of 
the same tint; for, in a word, the North was bound 
to have a fight, and would by no means endure 
that the three months' men should come home with- 
out doing something more positive than merely 
preventing the capture of Washington. 

On July 16, therefore, McDowell began his ad- 
vance, having with him about 35,000 men, and by 
the 19th he was at the stream of Bull Kun, behind 
which the Confederates lay. He planned his bat- 


tie skilfully, and began his attack on the morning 
of the 21st. On the other hand, Beauregard was 
at the double disadvantage of misapprehending 
his opponent's purpose, and of failing to get his 
orders conveyed to his lieutenants until the fight 
was far advanced. The result was that at the be- 
ginning of the afternoon the Federals had almost 
won a victory which they fully deserved. That 
they did not finally secure it was due to the ineffi- 
ciency of General Patterson. This general had 
crossed the Potomac a few days before and had 
been instructed to watch Johnston, who had drawn 
back near Winchester, and either to prevent him 
from moving his force from the Shenandoah Val- 
ley to Manassas, or, failing this, to keep close to 
him and imite with McDowell. But Patterson 
neither detained nor followed his opponent. On 
July 18 Beauregard telegraphed to Johnston: "If 
you wish to help me, now is the time." If Patter- 
son wished to help McDowell, then, also, was the 
time. The Southern general seized his opportun- 
ity, and the Northern general let his opportunity 
go. Johnston, uninterrupted and unfollowed by 
Patterson, brought his troops in from Manassas 
Junction upon the right wing of the Federals at 
the very moment and crisis when the battle was 
actually in the process of going in their favor. 
Directly all was changed. Older troops would not 
have stood, and these untried ones were defeated 
as soon as they were attacked. Speedily retreat 
became rout, and rout became panic. At a great 



speed the frightened soldiers, resolved into a mere 
disorganized mob of individuals, made their way 
back to the camps on the Potomac ; many thought 
Washington safer, and some did not stop short of 
their distant Northern homes. 

The Southerners, who had been on the point of 
running away when the Northerners anticipated 
them in so doing, now triumphed immoderately, 
and uttered boastings magniloquent enough for 
Homeric heroes. Yet they were, as General John- 
ston said, " almost as much disorganized by victory 
as were the Federals by defeat." Many of them 
also hastened to their homes, spreading everywhere 
the cheering tidings that the war was over and the 
South had won. 

In point of fact, it was a stage of the war when 
defeat was more wholesome than victory. Fortu- 
nately, too, the North was not even momentarily 
discouraged. The people had sense enough to see 
that what had happened was precisely what should 
have been expected. A little humiliated at their 
own folly, about as much vexed with themselves as 
angry with their enemies, they turned to their 
work in a new spirit. Persistence displaced excite- 
ment, as three years' men replaced three months' 
men. The people settled down to a long, hard 
task. Besides this, they had now some idea of 
what was necessary to be done in order to succeed 
in that task. Invaluable lessons had been learned, 
and no lives which were lost in the war bore fruit 
of greater usefulness than did those which seemed 
to have been foolishly thrown away at Bull Kun. 



On the day after the battle of Bull Run General 
George B. McClellan was summoned to Washing- 
ton, where he arrived on July 26. On the 25th 
he had been assigned to the command of the army 
of the Potomac. By all the light which President 
Lincoln had at the time of making this appoint- 
ment, it seemed the best that was possible; and in 
fact it was so, in view of the immediate sphere of 
usefulness of a commanding general in Virginia. 
McClellan was thirty-four years old, of vigorous 
physique and fine address. After his graduation 
at West Point, in 1846, he was attached to the 
Engineer Corps; he served through the Mexican 
War and, for merit, received a captaincy. In 
1855 he was sent by Jefferson Davis, then Secre- 
tary of War, to Europe to study the organizing 
and handling of armies in active service ; and he 
was for a while at the British headquarters during 
the siege of Sebastopol, observing their system in 
operation. In January, 1857, he resigned from 
the army; but with the first threatenings of the 
civil war he made ready to play an active part. 
April 23, 1861, he wa^ appointed by the governor 


of Ohio a major-general, with command of all the 
state forces. May 13, by an order from the 
national government, he took command of the De- 
partment of the Ohio, in which shortly afterward 
Western Virginia was included. He found the 
sturdy mountaineers of this inaccessible region for 
the most part loyalists, but overawed by rebel 
troops, and toward the close of May, upon his own 
sole responsibility, he inaugurated a campaign for 
their relief. In this he had the good fortune to 
be entirely successful. By some small engage- 
ments he cleared the country of armed Secessionists 
and returned it to the Union ; and in so doing he 
showed energy and good tactical ability. These 
achievements, which later in the war would have 
seemed inconsiderable, now led to confidence and 

In his new and exalted position McClellan be- 
came commander of a great number of men, but 
not of a great army. The agglomeration of civil- 
ians, who had run away from Manassas imder the 
impression that they had fought and lost a real 
battle, was utterly disorganized and demoralized. 
Some had already reached the sweet safety of the 
villages of the North ; others were lounging in the 
streets of Washington and swelling the receipts of 
its numerous bar-rooms. The majority, it is true, 
were in camp across the Potomac, but in no con- 
dition to render service. All, having been enlisted 
for three months, now had only a trifling remnant 
of so-called military life before them, in which it 


seemed to many hardly worth while to run risks. 
The new call for volunteers for three years had 
just gone forth, and though troops began to arrive 
under it with surprising promptitude and many 
three months' men reenlisted, yet a long time had 
to elapse before the new levies were all on hand. 
Thus betwixt departing and coming hosts Mc- 
Clellan's duty was not to use an army, but to 
create one. 

The task looked immeasurable, but there was 
a fortunate fitness for it upon both sides. The 
men who in this awful crisis were answering the 
summons of President Lincoln constituted a raw 
material of a kind such as never poured into any 
camp save possibly into that of Cromwell. For 
the most part they were courageous, intelligent, 
self-respecting citizens, who were under the noble 
compulsion of conscience and patriotism in leav- 
ing reputable and prosperous callings for a mili- 
tary career. The moral, mental and physical 
average of such a body of men was a long way 
above that of professional armies, and insured 
readiness in acquiring their new calling. But ad- 
mirable as were the latent possibilities, and apt 
as each individual might be, these multitudes ar- 
rived wholly uninstructed ; few had even so much 
as seen a real soldier, none had any notion at all 
of what military discipline was, or how to handle 
arms, or to manoeuvre, or to take care of their 
health. Nor could they easily get instruction 
in these things; for officers knew no more than 


privates; indeed, for that matter, one of the 
great difficulties at first encountered lay in the 
large proportion of utterly unfit men who had suc- 
ceeded in getting commissions, and who had to be 
toilfully eliminated. 

That which was to be done, McClellan was well 
able to do. He had a passion for organization, 
and fine capacity for work; he showed tact and 
skill in dealing with subordinates ; he had a thor- 
ough knowledge and a high ideal of what an army 
should be. He seemed the Genius of Order as he 
educated and arranged the chaotic gathering of 
human beings, who came before him to be trans- 
muted from farmers, merchants, clerks, shop-keep- 
ers and what not into soldiers of all arms and into 
leaders of soldiers. To that host in chrysalis he 
was what each skilful drill-master is to his awk- 
ward squad. Under his influence privates learned 
how to obey and officers how to command; each 
individual merged the sense of individuality in 
that of homogeneousness and cohesion, until the 
original loose association of units became one 
grand unit endowed with the solidarity and ma- 
chine-like quality of an efficient army. Patient 
labor produced a result so excellent that General 
Meade said long afterward: "Had there been no 
McClellan there could have been no Grant, for 
the army made no essential improvement under 
any of his successors." 

That the formation of this great complex ma- 
chine was indispensable, and that it would take 


much time, were facts which the disaster at Bull 
Run had compelled both the administration and 
the people to appreciate moderately well. Accord- 
ingly they resolutely set themselves to be patient. 
The cry of "On to Richmond" no longer sounded 
through the land, and the restraint imposed by the 
excited masses upon their own ardor was the 
strongest evidence of their profound earnestness. 
In a steady stream they poured men and material 
into the camps in Virginia, and they heard with 
satisfaction of the advance of the levies in dis- 
cipline and soldierly efficiency. For a while the 
scene was pleasant and without danger. "It was," 
says Arnold, describing that of which he had been 
an eye-witness, "the era of brilliant reviews and 
magnificent military displays, of parades, festive 
parties and junketings." Members of Congress 
found excursions to the camps attractive for them- 
selves and their visitors. Glancing arms, new 
uniforms, drill, and music constituted a fine show. 
Thus the rest of the summer passed away, and 
autumn came and was passing too. Then here 
and there signs of impatience began again to be 
manifested. It was observed with discontent that 
the glorious days of the Indian Summer, the per- 
fect season for military operations, were gliding 
by as tranquilly as if there were not a great war 
on hand, and still the citizen at home read each 
morning in his newspaper the stereotyped bulletin, 
"AU quiet on the Potomac;" the phrase passed 
into a byword and a sneer. By this time, too, 


to a nation which had not European standards of 
excellence, the army seemed to have reached a high 
state of efficiency, and to be abundantly able to 
take the field. Why did not its commander move? 
Amid all the drilling and band-playing the troops 
had been doing hard work; a chain of strong for- 
tifications scientifically constructed had been com- 
pleted around the capital and rendered it easy of 
defense. It could be left in safety. Why, then, 
was it not left? Why did the troops still linger? 
For a moment this monotony was interrupted 
by the ill-conducted engagement at Ball's Bluff. 
On October 21 nearly 2000 troops were sent 
across the Potomac by the local commander, with 
the foolish expectation of achieving something 
brilliant.^ The actual result was that they were 
corralled in an open field ; in their rear the precipi- 
tous bank dropped sharply to the river, upon which 
floated only the two or three little boats which had 
ferried them across in small parties ; in front and 
flank from the shelter of thick woods an outnum- 
bering force of rebels poured a steady fire upon 
them. They were in a cruel snare, and suffered 
terribly in killed and drowned, wounded and cap- 
tured. The affair was, and the country at once 
saw that it was, a gross blunder. The responsi- 
bility lay upon General Stone and Colonel Baker. 
Stone, a military man by education, deserved cen- 

1 A reconnoissance or " slight demonstration " ordered for the 
day before by McClellan had been completed, and is not to be 
confounded with this movement, for which he was not responsible. 


sure, but he was treated in a manner so cruel, so 
unjust and so disproportionate to his deserts that 
his error has been condoned in sympathy for his 
wrongs. The injustice was chargeable chiefly to 
Stanton, in part to the Committee on the Conduct 
of the War. Apparently Mr. Lincoln desired to 
know as little as possible about a wrong which he 
could not set right without injury to the public in- 
terests. He said to Stanton concerning the arrest : 
"I suppose you have good reasons for it, and hav- 
ing good reasons I am glad I knew nothing of it 
until it was done." To General Stone himseK he 
said that, if he should tell all he knew about it, he 
should not tell much. Colonel Baker, Senator 
from Oregon, a personal friend of the President, 
a brilliant orator, and a man beloved and admired 
by all who knew him, was a favorable specimen of 
the great body of new civilian officers. While 
brimming over with gallantry and enthusiasm, he 
was entirely ignorant of the military art. In the 
conduct of this enterprise a considerable discretion 
had been reposed in him, and he had, as was alto- 
gether natural, failed in everything except courage. 
But as he paid with his life on the battle-field the 
penalty of his daring and his inexperience, he 
was thought of only with tenderness and regret. 

This skirmish illustrated the scant trust which 
could yet be reposed in the skill and judgment of 
subordinate officers. The men behaved with en- 
couraging spirit and constancy under severe trial. 
But could a commander venture upon a campaign 


with brigadier-generals and colonels so unfit to 
assume responsibility? 

Nevertheless impatience hardly received a mo- 
mentary check from this lesson. With some in- 
consistency people placed unlimited confidence in 
McClellan's capacity to beat the enemy, but no 
confidence at all in his judgment as to the feasi- 
bility of a forward movement. The grumbling 
did not, however, indicate that faith in him was 
shaken, for just now he was given promotion by 
Mr. Lincoln, and it met with general approval. 
For some time past it had been a cause of discom- 
fort that he did not get on altogether smoothly 
with General Scott; the elder was irascible and 
jealous, the younger certainly not submissive. At 
last, on October 31, the old veteran regretfully 
but quite wisely availed himself of his right to 
be placed upon the retired list, and immediately, 
November 1, General McClellan succeeded him 
in the distinguished position of Commander-in- 
Chief (under the President) of all the armies of 
the United States. On the same day Mr. Lincoln 
courteously hastened out to headquarters to make 
in person congratulations which were unquestion- 
ably as sincere as they were generous. Every one 
felt that a magnificent opportunity was given to a 
favorite general. But unfortunately among all his 
admirers there was not one who believed in him 
quite so fully as he believed in himself; he lost all 
sense of perspective and proportion, and felt upon 
a pinnacle from which he could look down even 


on a president. 1 Being in this masterful temper, 
he haughtily disregarded the growing demand for 
an advance. On the other hand the politicians, 
always eager to minister to the gratification of the 
people, began to be importunate; they harried the 
President, and went out to camp to prick their 
civilian spurs into the General himself. But Mc- 
Clellan had a soldierly contempt for such inter- 
meddling in matters military, and was wholly un- 
impressible. When Senator Wade said that an 
unsuccessful battle was preferable to delay, for 
that a defeat would easily be repaired by swarm- 
ing recruits, the General tartly replied that he 
preferred a few recruits before a victory to a great 
many after a defeat. But however cleverly and 
fairly the military man might counter upon the 
politician, there was no doubt that discontent was 
developing dangerously. The people had consci- 
entiously intended to do their part fully, and a 
large proportion of them now sincerely believed 
that they had done it. They knew that they had 
been lavish of men, money, and supplies ; and they 
thought that they had been not less liberal of 
time ; wherefore they rebelled against the contrary 
opinion of the general, whose ideal of a trust- 
worthy army had by no means been reached, and 
who, being of a stubborn temperament, would not 
stir tiU it had been. 

It is difficult to satisfy one's self of the real fit- 

^ For example, see his Own Story, 82 ; but, nnf ortunately, one 
may refer to that hook passim for evidence of the statement. 


ness of the army to move at or about this time, — 
that is to say, in or near the month of November, 
1861, — for the evidence is mixed and conflicting. 
The Committee on the Conduct of the War as- 
serted that "the Army of the Potomac was well 
armed and equipped and had reached a high state 
of discipline by the last of September or first of 
October; "but the Committee was not composed 
of experts. Less florid commendation is given by 
the Comte de Paris, of date October 15. Mc- 
Clellan himself said: "It certainly was not till 
late in November that the army was in any con- 
dition to move, nor even then were they capable 
of assaulting intrenched positions." At that time 
winter was at hand, and advance was said to be 
impracticable. That these statements were as fa- 
vorable as possible seems probable ; for it is famil- 
iar knowledge that the call for these troops did 
not issue until July, that at the close of November 
the recruits were still continuing "to pour in, to 
be assigned and equipped and instructed ;" ^ that 
many came unarmed or with useless weapons; and 
that these "civilians, suddenly called to arms as 
soldiers and officers, did not take kindly to the 
subordination and restraints of the camp." ^ Now 
McClellan's temperament did not lead him to run 
risks in the effort to force achievements with 
means of dubious adequacy. His purpose was to 
create a machine perfect in every part, sure and 
irresistible in operation, and then to set it in mo- 
1 N. and H., iv. 469. 2 jrjjj. ^. 140, 


tion with a certainty of success. He wrote to Lin- 
coln: "I have ever regarded our true policy as 
being that of fully preparing ourselves, and then 
seeking for the most decisive results."^ Under 
favoring circumstances this plan might have been 
the best. But circumstances were not favoring. 
Neither he nor the government itself, nor indeed 
both together, could afford long or far to disre- 
gard popular feeling. Before the close of Novem- 
ber that popular feeling was such that the people 
would have endured without flinching the discour- 
agement of a defeat, but woidd not endure the 
severe tax of inaction, and from this time forth 
their impatience gathered volume until it became 
a controlling element in the situation. Them- 
selves intending to be reasonable, they grew more 
and more convinced that McClellan was unreason- 
able. General and people confronted each other: 
the North would fight, at the risk of defeat; Mc- 
Clellan would not fight, because he was not sure to 
win. Any one who comprehended the conditions, 
the institutions of the country, the character of the 
nation, especially its temper concerning the pres- 
ent conflict, also the necessities beneath which 
that conflict must be waged, if it was to be waged 
at all, would have seen that the people must be 
deferred to. The question was not whether they 
were right or wrong. Assuming them to be 
wrong, it would still be a mistake to withstand 
them beyond a certain point. If yielding to them 
1 Letter to Lincoln, Feb. 3, 1862. 


should result in disastrous consequences, they must 
be called upon to rally, and could be trusted to do 
so, instructed but undismayed by their experience. 
All this McClellan utterly failed to appreciate, 
thereby leading Mr. Swinton very justly to remark 
that he was lacking in "the statesmanlike qualities 
that enter into the composition of a great gen- 
eral." i 

On the other hand, no man ever lived more 
capable than Mr. Lincoln of precisely appreciating 
the present facts, or more sure to avoid those pecu- 
liar blunders which entrapped the military com- 
mander. He was very loyal in living up to his 
pledge to give the general full support, and by his 
conduct during many months to come he proved 
his readiness to abide to the last possible point. 
He knew, however, with unerring accuracy just 
where that last point lay, and he saw with dis- 
quietude that it was being approached too rapidly. 
He was getting sufficient knowledge of McClellan 's 
character to see that the day was not distant when 
he must interfere. Meantime he kept his sensi- 
tive finger upon the popular pulse, as an expert 
physician watches a patient in a fever. With the 
growth of the impatience his anxiety grew, for 
the people's war would not be successfully fought 
by a dissatisfied people. Repeatedly he tested the 

^ Army of Potomac, 97. Swinton says : " He should have made 
the lightest possible draft on the indulgence of the people." Ibid., 
69. General Webb says : " He drew too heavily upon the faith of 
the public." The Peninsula, 12. 


situation in the hope that a movement could be 
forced without undue imprudence; but he was 
always met by objections from McClellan. In 
weighing the Northern and the Southern armies 
against each other, the general perhaps underval- 
ued his own resources and certainly overvalued 
those of his opponent. He believed that the Con- 
federate " discipline and drill were far better than 
our own;" wherein he was probably in error, for 
General Lee admitted that, while the Southerners 
would always fight well, they were refractory tmder 
discipline. Moreover, they were at this time very 
ill provided with equipment and transportation. 
Also McClellan said that the Southern army had 
thrown up intrenchments at Manassas and Centre- 
ville, and therefore the "problem was to attack 
victorious and finely drilled troops in intrench- 
ment." But the most discouraging and inexplic- 
able assertion, which he emphatically reiterated, 
concerned the relative numerical strength. He 
not only declared that he himself could not put 
into the field the numbers shown by the official 
returns to be with him, but also he exaggerated 
the Southern numbers till he became extravagant 
to the point of absurdity. So it had been from 
the outset, and so it continued to be to the time 
when he was at last relieved of his command. 
Thus, on August 15, he conceived himself to be 
" in a terrible place ; the enemy have three or four 
times my force." September 9 he imagined John- 
ston to have 130,000 men, against his own 85,000; 


and he argued that Johnston could move upon 
Baltimore a column 100,000 strong, which he 
could meet with only 60,000 or 70,000. Later 
in October he marked the Confederates up to 
150,000. He estimated his own requirement at 
a "total effective force" of 208,000 men, which 
implied "an aggregate, present and absent, of 
about 240,000 men." Of these he designed 
150,000 as a "column of active operations;" the 
rest were for garrisons and guards. He said that 
in fact he had a gross aggregate of 168,318, and 
the "force present for duty was 147,695." Since 
the garrisons and the guards were a fixed number, 
the reduction fell whoUy upon the movable col- 
umn, and reduced "the number disposable for an 
advance to 76,285." Thus he made himself out 
to be fatally over-matched. But he was exces- 
sively in error. In the autumn Johnston's effec- 
tive force was only 41,000 men, and on December 
1, 1861, it was 47,000.1 

Such comparisons, advanced with positiveness 
by the highest authority, puzzled Mr. Lincoln. 
They seemed very strange, yet he could not dis- 
prove them, and was therefore obliged to face the 
perplexing choice which was mercilessly set before 
him; "either to go into winter quarters, or to as- 
sume the offensive with forces greatly inferior in 

1 The Southern generals had a similar propensity to over-esti- 
mate the opposing force ; e, g., Johnston's Narrative, 108, where 
he puts the Northern force at 140,000, when in fact it was 58,000; 
and on p. 112 his statement is even worse. 


number" to what was "desirable and necessary." 
"If political considerations render the first course 
unadvisable, the second alone remains." The 
general's most cheering admission was that, by- 
stripping all other armies down to the lowest 
numbers absolutely necessary for a strict defensive, 
and by concentrating all the forces of the nation 
and all the attention of the government upon "the 
vital point " in Virginia, it might yet be possible 
for this "main army, whose destiny it [was] to 
decide the controversy, ... to move with a rea- 
sonable prospect of success before the winter is 
fairly upon us." A direct assertion of impossi- 
bility, provocative of denial or discussion, would 
have been less disheartening. 

In passing, it may be remarked that McClel- 
lan's prevision that the ultimate arbitrament of 
the struggle must occur in Virginia was correct. 
But in another point he was wrong, and unfortu- 
nately this was of more immediate consequence, 
because it corroborated him in his purpose to delay 
till he could make success a certainty. He hoped 
that when he moved, he should be able to win one 
or two overwhelming victories, to capture Rich- 
mond, and to crush the rebellion in a few weeks. 
It was a brilliant and captivating programme,^ 
but impracticable and undesirable. Even had the 

^ The Southerners also had the same notion, hoping by one 
g^eat victory to discourag'e and convince the North and make 
peace on the basis of independence ; e. g^., see Johnston's Narr., 
113, 115. Grant likewise had the notion of a decisive battle. 
Memoirs, i. 368. 


Southerners been quelled by so great a disaster, 
— which was not likely, — they would not have 
been thoroughly conquered, nor would slavery 
have been disposed of, and both these events were 
indispensable to a definitive peace between the two 
sections. Whether the President shared this no- 
tion of his general is not evident. Apparently he 
was not putting his mind upon theories reaching 
into the future so much as he was devoting his 
whole thought to dealing with the urgent prob- 
lems of the present. If this was the case, he was 
pursuing the wise and sound course. In the situ- 
ation, it was more desirable to fight a great battle 
at the earliest possible moment than to await a 
great victory many months hence. 

It is commonplace wisdom that it is foolish for 
a civilian to undertake the direction of a war. 
Yet our Constitution ordains that "the President 
shall be commander-in-chief of the army and navy 
of the United States, and of the militia of the sev- 
eral States, when called into the actual service of 
the United States." It is not supposable that the 
delegates who suggested this function, or the peo- 
ple who ordained it, anticipated that presidents 
generally would be men skilled in military sci- 
ence. Therefore Mr. Lincohi could not escape 
the obligation on the ground of unfitness for the 
duty which was imperatively placed upon him. It 
might be true that to set him in charge of military 
operations was like ordering a merchant to paint 
a picture or a jockey to sail a ship, but it was also 


true that he was so set in charge. He could not 
shirk it, nor did he try to shirk it. In conse- 
quence hostile critics have dealt mercilessly with 
his actions, and the history of this winter and 
spring of 1861-62 is a painful and confusing story 
of bitter controversy and crimination. Further it 
is to be remembered that, apart from the obliga- 
tion imposed on the President by the Constitution, 
it was true that if civilians could not make rapid 
progress in the military art, the war might as well 
be abandoned. They were already supposed to be 
doing so; General Banks, a politician, and Gen- 
eral Butler, a lawyer, were already conducting 
important movements. Still it remains undeniable 
that finally it was only the professional soldiers 
who, undergoing successfully the severe test of 
time, composed the illustrious front rank of strate- 
gists when the close of the war left every man in 
his established place. In discussing this perplex- 
ing period, extremists upon one side attribute the 
miscarriages and failure of McClellan's campaign 
to ceaseless, thwarting interference by the Presi- 
dent, the Secretary of War and other civil offi- 
cials. Extremists upon the other side allege the 
marvel that a sudden development of unerring 
judgment upon every question involving the prac- 
tical application of military science took place on 
Mr. Lincoln's part.'^ Perhaps the truth lies be- 
tween the disputants, but it is not likely ever to 

^ The position taken by Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, I think, fully 
warrants this language. 


be definitely agreed upon so long as the contro- 
versy excites interest; for the discussion bristles 
with ifs, and where this is the case no advocate 
can be irremediably vanquished. 

It seems right, at this place, to note one fact 
concerning Mr. Lincoln which ought not to be 
overlooked and which cannot be denied. This is 
his entire political unselfishness, the rarest moral 
quality among men in public life. In those days 
of trouble and distrust slanders were rife in a 
degree which can hardly be appreciated by men 
whose experience has been only with quieter times. 
Sometimes purposes and sometimes methods were 
assailed; and those prominent in civil life, and a 
few also in military life, were believed to be art- 
fully and darkly seeking to interlace their personal 
political fortunes in the web of public affairs, nat- 
urally subordinating the latter fabric. Alliances, 
enmities, intrigues, schemes, and every form of 
putting the interest of seK before that of the na- 
tion, were insinuated with a bitter malevolence 
imknown except amid such abnormal conditions. 
The few who escaped charges of this kind were be- 
lieved to cherish their own peculiar fanaticisms, 
desires, and purposes concerning the object and 
results of the struggle, which they were resolved 
to satisfy at almost any cost and by almost any 
means. While posterity is endeavoring very 
wisely to discredit and to forget a great part of 
these painful criminations, it is cheering to find 
that no effort has to be made to forget anything 


about the President. In his ease injurious gossip 
has long since died away and been buried. What- 
ever may be said of him in other respects, at least 
the purity and the singleness of his patriotism 
shine brilliant and limainous through all this cloud- 
dust of derogation. By his position he had more 
at stake, both in his lifetime and before the tri- 
bunal of the future, than any other person in the 
country. But there was only one idea in his 
mind, and that was, — not that he should save the 
country, but, that the country should he saved. 
Not the faintest shadow of self ever fell for an in- 
stant across this simple purpose. He was intent 
to play his part out faithfully, with all the ability 
he could bring to it; but any one else, who could, 
might win and wear the title of savior. He chiefly 
cared that the saving should be done. Never 
once did he manipulate any covert magnet to draw 
toward himself the credit or the glory of a measure 
or a move. To his own future he seemed to give 
no thought. It would be unjust to allow the dread 
of appearing to utter eulogy rather than historic 
truth to betray a biographer into overlooking this 
genuine magnanimity. 

It was in December, 1861, that Congress created 
the famous Committee on the Conduct of the War, 
to some of whose doings it has already been neces- 
sary to allude. The gentlemen who were placed 
upon it were selected partly of course for political 
reasons, and were all men who had made them- 


selves conspicuous for their enthusiasm and vehe- 
mence; not one of them had any military know- 
ledge. The Committee magnified its office almost 
beyond limit, — investigated everything; haled 
whom it chose to testify before it; made reports, 
expressed opinions, insisted upon policies and 
measures in matters military; and aU with a 
dictatorial assumption and self-confidence which 
could not be devoid of effect, although every one 
knew that each individual member was absolutely 
without fitness for this business. So the Commit- 
tee made itself a great power, and therefore also 
a great complication, in the war-machinery; and 
though it was sometimes useful, yet, upon a final 
balancing of its long account, it failed to justify 
its existence, as, indeed, was to have been expected 
from the outset.^ In the present discussions con- 
cerning an advance of the army, its members stren- 
uously insisted upon immediate action, and their 
official influence brought much strength to that 

The first act indicating an intention on the 
part of the President to interfere occurred almost 
simultaneously with the beginning of the general's 
illness. About December 21, 1861, he handed to 
McClellan a brief memorandum: "If it were de- 
termined to make a forward movement of the army 
of the Potomac, without awaiting further increase 

^ General Palfrey says of this committee that " the worst spirit 
of the Inquisition characterized their doings." The Antietam and 
Fredericksburg (Campaigns of Civil War Series), 182. 


of numbers or better drill and discipline, how long 
would it require to actually get in motion ? After 
leaving all that would be necessary, how many 
troops could join the movement from southwest of 
the river? How many from northeast of it?" 
Then he proceeded briefly to hint rather than dis- 
tinctly to suggest that plan of a direct advance by 
way of Centreville and Manassas, which later on 
he persistently advocated. Ten days elapsed be- 
fore McClellan returned answers, which then came 
in a shape too curt to be respectful. Almost im- 
mediately afterward the general fell ill, an occur- 
rence which seemed to his detractors a most aggra- 
vating and unjustifiable intervention of Nature 
herself in behalf of his policy of delay. 

On January 10 a dispatch from General Halleck 
represented in his department also a condition of 
check and helplessness. Lincoln noted upon it: 
"Exceedingly discouraging. As everywhere else, 
nothing can be done." Yet something must be 
done, for the game was not to be abandoned. Un- 
der this pressure, on this same day, he visited Mc- 
Clellan, but could not see him ; nor could he get 
any definite idea how long might be the duration 
of the typhoid fever, the lingering and uncertain 
disease which had laid the general low. Accord- 
ingly he summoned General McDowell and Gen- 
eral Franklin to discuss with him that evening the 
military situation. The Secretaries of State and 
of the Treasury, and the Assistant Secretary of 
War also came. The President, says McDowell, 


"was greatly disturbed at the state of affairs," 
"was in great distress," and said that, "if some- 
thing was not done soon, the bottom would be out 
of the whole affair; and if General McClellan did 
not want to use the army, he would like to ' borrow 
it, ' provided he could see how it could be made to 
do something." The two generals were directed 
to inform themselves concerning the "actual con- 
dition of the army," and to come again the next 
day. Conferences followed on January 11 and 12, 
Postmaster-General Blair and General Meigs be- 
ing added to the council. The Postmaster-General 
condemned a direct advance as "strategically de- 
fective," while Chase descanted on the "moral 
power " of a victory. The picture of the two civ- 
ilians injecting their military suggestions is not 
reassuring. Meigs is somewhat vaguely reported 
to have favored a "battle in front." 

McDowell and Franklin had not felt justified in 
communicating these occurrences to McClellan, 
bocause the President had marked his order to 
them "private and confidential." But the com- 
mander heard rumors of what was going forward,^ 
and on January 12 he came from his sick-room 
to see the President; he was "looking quite well," 
and apparently was "able to assume the charge of 
the army." The apparition put a different com- 
plexion upon the pending discussions. On the 
13th the same gentlemen met, but now with the 
addition of General McClellan. The situation 

1 Through Stanton ; McClellan, Own Story, 156. 


was embarrassing. McClellan took scant pains to 
conceal his resentment. McDowell, at the request 
of the President, explained what he thought could 
be done, closing "by saying something apolo- 
getic;" to which McClellan replied, "somewhat 
coldly if not curtly: 'You are entitled to have 
any opinion you please.'" Secretary Chase, a 
leader among the anti-McClellanites, bluntly asked 
the general to explain his military plans in detail ; 
but McClellan declined to be interrogated except 
by the President, or by the Secretary of War, who 
was not present. Finally, according to McClel- 
lan 's account, which differs a little but not essen- 
tially from that of McDowell, Mr. Lincoln sug- 
gested 1 that he should teU what his plans were. 
McClellan replied, in substance, that this would 
be imprudent and seemed unnecessary, and that he 
would only give information if the President would 
order him in writing to do so, and would assume 
the responsibility for the results. ^ McDowell adds 
(but McClellan does not), that the President then 
asked McClellan " if he had counted upon any par- 
ticular time ; he did not ask what that time was, 
but had he in his own mind any particular time 
fixed, when a movement could be commenced. He 
replied, he had. 'Then,' rejoined the President, 
'I will adjourn this meeting.'" This unfortu- 

^ Only a few days before this time Lincoln had said that he 
had no "right" to insist upon knowing the general's plans. 
Julian, Polit. Recoil, 201. 

2 It appears that he feared that what he said would leak out, 
and ultimately reach the enemy. 


nate episode aggravated tlie discord, and removed 
confidence and cooperation farther away than ever 

The absence of the Secretary of War from these 
meetings was due to the fact that a change in the 
War Department was in process contemporane- 
ously with them. The President had been allowed 
to understand that Mr. Cameron did not find his 
duties agreeable, and might prefer a diplomatic 
post. Accordingly, with no show of reluctance, 
Mr. Lincoln, on January 11, 1862, offered to Mr. 
Cameron the post of Minister to Russia. It was 
promptly accepted, and on January 13 Edwin M. 
Stanton was nominated and confirmed to fill the 
vacancy.^ The selection was a striking instance 
of the utter absence of vindictiveness which so dis- 
tinguished Mr. Lincoln, who, in fact, was simply 
insensible to personal feeling as an influence. In 
choosing incumbents for public trusts, he knew no 
foe, perhaps no friend; but as dispassionately as 
if he were manoeuvring pieces on a chessboard, he 
considered only which available piece would serve 
best in the square which he had to fill. In 1859 
he and Stanton had met as associate counsel in 
perhaps the most important law-suit in which Mr. 
Lincoln had ever been concerned, and Stanton 
had treated Lincoln with his habitual insolence.^ 

^ For an interesting account of these incidents, from Secretary 
Chase's Diary, see Warden, 401. 

2 Lamon, 332 ; Hemdon, 353-56 ; N. and H. try to mitigate this 
story, T. 133. 


Later, in the trying months which closed the year 
1861, Stanton had abused the administration with 
violence, and had carried his revilings of the Pres- 
ident even to the point of coarse personal insults.^ 
No man, not being a rebel, had less right to expect 
an invitation to become an adviser of the Presi- 
dent; and most men, who had felt or expressed 
the opinions held by Mr. Stanton, would have had 
scruples or delicacy about coming into the close 
relationship of confidential adviser with the object 
of their contempt; but neither scruples nor deli- 
cacy delayed him; his acceptance was prompt.^ 

So Mr. Lincoln had chosen his Secretary solely 
upon the belief of the peculiar fitness of the indi- 
vidual for the special duties of the war office. 
Upon the whole the choice was wisely made, and 
was evidence of Mr. Lincoln's insight into the 
aptitudes and the uses of men. Stanton's abilities 
commanded some respect, though his character 
never excited either respect or liking; just now, 
however, all his good qualities and many of his 
faults seemed precisely adapted to the present re- 
quirements of his Department. He had been a 
Democrat, but was now zealous to extremity in pa- 
triotism ; in his dealings with men he was capable 
of much duplicity, yet in matters of business he 
was rigidly honest, and it was his pleasure to pro- 
tect the Treasury against the contractors ; he loved 

^ He did not always feel his tongue tied afterward by the obli- 
gations of office ; e. g., see Jidian, Polit. EecolL, 210. 
^ For a singular tale, see McClellan, Own Story, 153. 


work, and never wearied amid the driest and most 
exacting toil; he was prompt and decisive rather 
than judicial or correct in his judgments concern- 
ing men and things; he was arbitrary, harsh, bad- 
tempered, and impulsive; he often committed acts 
of injustice or cruelty, for which he rarely made 
amends and still more rarely seemed disturbed by 
remorse or regret. These traits bore hard upon 
individuals; but ready and unscrupulous severity 
was supposed to have its usefulness in a civil war. 
Many a time he taxed the forbearance of the Presi- 
dent to a degree that would have seemed to trans- 
cend the uttermost limit of human patience, if Mr. 
Lincoln had not taken these occasions to show to 
the world how forbearing and patient it is possible 
for man to be. But those who knew the relations 
of the two men are agreed that Stanton, however 
brow-beating he was to others, recognized a mas- 
ter in the President, and though often grumbling 
and insolent, always submitted if a crisis came. 
Undoubtedly Mr. Lincoln was the only ruler 
known to history who could have co'operated for 
years with such a minister. He succeeded in do- 
ing so because he believed it to be for the good of 
the cause, to which he could easily subordinate all 
personal considerations; and posterity, agreeing 
with him, concedes to Stanton credit for efficiency 
in the conduct of his department. 

It is worth while here to pause long enough to 
read part of a letter which, on this same crowded 
thirteenth day of January, 1862, the President sent 


to General Halleck, in the West: "For my own 
views : I have not offered, and do not now offer, 
them as orders; and while I am glad to have them 
respectfully considered, I would blame you to fol- 
low them contrary to your own clear judgment, 
unless I should put them in the form of orders. 
. . . With this preliminary, I state my general 
idea of this war to be that we have the greater 
numbers and the enemy has the greater facility 
of concentrating forces upon points of collision; 
that we must fail unless we can find some way of 
making our advantage an overmatch for his ; and 
that this can only be done by menacing him with 
superior forces at different points at the same 
time, so that we can safely attack one or both 
if he makes no change; and if he weakens one 
to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the 
strengthened one, but seize and hold the weakened 
one, gaining so much." 

In a personal point of view this short letter is 
pregnant with interest and suggestion. The writ- 
er's sad face, eloquent of the charge and burden 
of one of the most awful destinies of human-kind, 
rises before us as we read the expression of his 
modest self-distrust amid the strange duties of 
military affairs. But closely following this comes 
the intimation that in due time "orc^ers" will 
come. Such was the quiet, unflinching way in 
which Lincoln always faced every test, apparently 
with a tranquil and assured faith that, whatever 
might seem his lack of fitting preparation, his best 


would be adequate to the occasion. The habit has 
led many to fancy that he believed himself di- 
vinely chosen, and therefore sure of infallible guid- 
ance ; but it is observable far back, almost from 
the beginning of his life; it was a trait of mind 
and character, nothing else. The letter closes 
with a broad general theory concerning the war, 
wrought out by that careful process of thinking 
whereby he was wont to make his way to the big, 
simple and fundamental truth. The whole is worth 
holding in memory through the narrative of the 
coming weeks. 

The conference of January 13 developed a seri- 
ous difference of opinion as to the plan of cam- 
paign, whenever a campaign should be entered 
upon. The President's notion, already shadowed 
forth in his memorandum of December, was, to 
move directly upon the rebel army at Centreville 
and Manassas and to press it back upon Rich- 
mond, with the purpose of capturing that city. 
But McClellan presented as his project a move- 
ment by Urbana and West Point, using the York 
River as a base of supplies. General McDowell 
and Secretary Chase favored the President's plan; 
General Franklin and Postmaster Blair thought 
better of McClellan' s. The President had a 
strong fancy for his own scheme, because by it the 
Union army was kept between the enemy and 
Washington ; and therefore the supreme point of 
importance, the safety of the national capital, was 
ensured. The discussion, which was thus opened 


and which remained long unsettled, had, among 
other ill effects, that of sustaining the vexatious 
delay. While the anti - McClellan faction — for 
the matter was becoming one of factions ^ — grew 
louder in denunciation of his inaction and fastened 
upon him the contemptuous nickname of "the 
Virginia creeper," the friends of the general re- 
torted that the President, meddling in what he 
did not understand, would not let the military com- 
mander manage the war. 

Nevertheless Mr. Lincoln, dispassionate and 
fair-minded as usual, allowed neither their per- 
sonal difference of opinion nor this abusive outcry 
to inveigle into his mind any prejudice against 
McClellan. The Southerner who, in February, 
1861, predicted that Lincoln "would do his own 
thinking," read character well. Lincoln was now 
doing precisely this thing, in his silent, thorough, 
independent way, neither provoked by McClellan 's 

^ In fact, the feeling against McClellan was getting so strong 
that some of his enemies were wild enough about this time to 
accuse him of disloyalty. He himself narrates a dramatic tale, 
which would seem incredible if his veracity were not beyond 
question, of an interview, occurring March 8, 1862, in which the 
President told him, apparently with the air of expecting an ex- 
planation, that he was charged with laying his plans with the 
traitorous intent of leaving Washington defenseless. McClellan' s 
Own Story, 195. On the other hand McClellan retaliated by be- 
lieving that his detractors wished, for political and personal mo- 
tives, to prevent the war from being brought to an early and 
successfid close, and that they intentionally withheld from him 
the means of success ; also that Stanton especially sought by un- 
derhand means to sow misunderstanding between him and the 
President. Ibid. 195. 


cavalier assumption of superior knowledge, nor 
alarmed by the danger of offending the politicians. 
In fact, he decided to go counter to both the dis- 
putants; for he resolved, on the one hand, to com- 
pel McClellan to act; on the other, to maintain 
him in his command. He did not, however, aban- 
don his own plan of campaign. On January 27, 
as commander-in-chief of the army, he issued his 
"General War Order No. 1." In this he di- 
rected "that the 22d day of February, 1862, be 
the day for a general movement of the land and 
naval forces of the United States against the in- 
surgent forces;" and said that heads of depart- 
ments and military and naval commanders would 
"be held to their strict and full reponsibilities for 
prompt execution of this order." By this he prac- 
tically repudiated McClellan 's scheme, because 
transportation and other preparations for pursuing 
the route by Urbana could not be made ready by 
the date named. 

Critics of the President have pointed to this 
document as a fine instance of the follies to be ex- 
pected from a civil ruler who conducts a war. To 
order an advance all along a line from the Missis- 
sippi to the Atlantic, upon a day certain, without 
regard to differing local conditions and exigencies, 
and to notify the enemy of the purpose nearly a 
month beforehand, were acts preposterous accord- 
ing to military science. But the criticism was not 
so fair as it was obvious. The order really bore 
in part the character of a manifesto ; to the people 


of the North, whose confidence must be kept and 
their spirit sustained, it said that the administra- 
tion meant action at once; to commanding officers 
it was a fillip, warning them to bestir themselves, 
obstacles to the contrary notwithstanding. It was 
a reveille. Further, in a general way it undoubt- 
edly laid out a sound plan of campaign, substan- 
tially in accordance with that which McClellan 
also was evolving, viz. : to press the enemy all 
along the western and middle line, and thus to 
prevent his making too formidable a concentration 
in Virginia. In the end, however, practicable or 
impracticable, wise or foolish, the order was never 
fulfilled. The armies in Virginia did nothing tiU 
many weeks after the anniversary of Washington's 
birthday; whereas, in the West, Admiral Foote 
and General Grant did not conceive that they were 
enforced to rest in idleness until that historic date. 
Before it arrived they had performed the brilliant 
exploits of capturing Fort Henry and Fort Donel- 

On January 31 the President issued "Special 
War Order No. 1," directing the army of the 
Potomac to seize and occupy "a point upon the 
railroad southwestward of what is known as Ma- 
nassas Junction; . . . the expedition to move be- 
fore or on the 22d day of February next." This 
was the distinct, as the general order had been 
the indirect, adoption of his own plan of cam- 
paign, and the over-ruling of that of the general. 
McCleUan at once remonstrated, and the two rival 


plans thus came face to face for immediate and 
definitive settlement. It must be assumed that 
the President's order had been really designed 
only to force exactly this issue ; for on February 
3, so soon as he received the remonstrance, he in- 
vited argument from the general by writing to 
him a letter which foreshadowed an open-minded 
reception for views opposed to his own : — 

"If you will give satisfactory answers to the 
following questions, I shall gladly yield my plan 
to yours : — 

"1st. Does not your plan involve a greatly 
larger expenditure of time and money than mine ? 

" 2d. Wherein is a victory more certain by your 
plan than mine? 

"3d. Wherein is a victory more valuable by 
your plan than mine ? 

"4th. In fact, would it not be less valuable in 
this: that it would break no great line of the 
enemy's communications, while mine would? 

"5th. In case of disaster would not a retreat be 
more difficult by your plan than mine?" 

To these queries McClellan replied by a long 
and elaborate exposition of his views. He said 
that, if the President's plan should be pursued 
successfully, the "results would be confined to the 
possession of the field of battle, the evacuation of 
the line of the upper Potomac by the enemy, and 
the moral effect of the victory." On the other 
hand, a movement in force by the route which he 
advocated "obliges the enemy to abandon his in- 


trenched position at Manassas, in order to hasten 
to cover Richmond and Norfolk." That is to 
say, he expected to achieve by a manoeuvre what 
the President designed to effect by a battle, to 
be fought by inexperienced troops against an 
intrenched enemy. He continued: "This move- 
ment, if successful, gives us the capital, the com- 
munications, the supplies, of the rebels; Norfolk 
would fall ; all the waters of the Chesapeake would 
be ours ; all Virginia would be in our power, and 
the enemy forced to abandon Tennessee and North 
Carolina. The alternative presented to the enemy 
would be, to beat us in a position selected by 
ourselves, disperse, or pass beneath the Caudine 
forks." In case of defeat, the Union army would 
have a "perfectly secure retreat down the Penin- 
sula upon Fort Monroe." "This letter," he af- 
terward wrote, "must have produced some effect 
upon the mind of the President! " The slur was 
unjust. The President now and always considered 
the views of the general with a liberality of mind 
rarely to be met with in any man, and certainly 
never in McClellan himself. In this instance the 
letter did in fact produce so much "effect upon 
the mind of the President " that he prepared to 
yield views which he held very strongly to views 
which he was charged with not being able to un- 
derstand and which he certainly could not bring 
himseK actually to believe in. 

Yet before quite taking this step he demanded 
that a council of the generals of division should be 


summoned to express their opinions. This was 
done, with the result that McDowell, Sumner, 
Heintzelman and Barnard voted against McClel- 
lan's plan; Keyes voted for it, with the proviso 
"that no change should be made until the rebels 
were driven from their batteries on the Potomac." 
Fitz-John Porter, Franklin, W. F. Smith, Mc- 
Call, Blenker, Andrew Porter, and Naglee (of 
Hooker's division) voted for it. Stanton after- 
ward said of this: "We saw ten generals afraid 
to fight." The insult, delivered in the snug per- 
sonal safety which was suspected to be very dear 
to Stanton, was ridiculous as aimed at men who 
soon handled some of the most desperate battles of 
the war; but it is interesting as an expression of 
the unreasoning bitterness of the controversy then 
waging over the situation in Virginia, a contro- 
versy causing animosities vastly more fierce than 
any between Union soldiers and Confederates, 
animosities which have unfortunately lasted longer, 
and which can never be brought to the like final 
and conclusive arbitrament. The purely military 
question quickly became snarled up with politics 
and was reduced to very inferior proportions in 
the noxious competition. "Politics entered and 
strategy retired," says General Webb, too truly. 
McClellan himself conceived that the politicians 
were leagued to destroy him and would rather see 
him discredited than the rebels whipped. In later 
days the strong partisan loves and hatreds of our 
historical writers have perpetuated and increased 
all this bad blood, confusion, and obscurity. 


The action of the council of generals was con- 
clusive. The President accepted McClellan's 
plan. Therein he did right; for undeniably it 
was his duty to allow his own inexperience to be 
controlled by the deliberate opinion of the best 
military experts in the country; and this fact is 
wholly independent of any opinion concerning the 
intrinsic or the comparative merits of the plans 
themselves. Indeed Mr. Lincoln had never ex- 
pressed positive disapproval of McClellan's plan 
per se, but only had been alarmed at what seemed 
to him its indirect result in exposing the capital. 
To cover this point, he now made an imperative 
preliminary condition that this safety should be 
placed beyond a question. He was emphatic and 
distinct in reiterating this proviso, as fundamental. 
The preponderance of professional testimony, from 
that day to this, has been to the effect that Mc- 
Clellan's strategy was sound and able, and that 
Mr. Lincoln's anxiety for the capital was ground- 
less. But in spite of all argument, and though 
military men may shed ink as if it were mere 
blood, in spite even of the contempt and almost 
ridicule which the President incurred at the pen 
of McClellan,^ the civilian will retain a lurking 
sympathy with the President's preference. It is 
impossible not to reflect that precisely in propor- 

^ McClellan afterward wrote that the administration "had 
neither courage nor military insight to understand the eifect of 
the plan I desired to carry out." Own Story, 194. This is per- 
haps a mild example of many remarks to the same purport which 
fell from the general at one time and another. 


tion as the safety of the capital, for many weighty 
reasons, immeasurably outweighed any other pos- 
sible consideration in the minds of the Northern- 
ers, so the desire to capture it would be equally 
overmastering in the estimation of the Southern- 
ers. Why might not the rebels permit McClellan 
to march into Richmond, provided that at the 
same time they were marching into Washington? 
Why might they not, in the language afterward 
used by General Lee, "swap Queens"? They 
would have a thousand-fold the better of the ex- 
change. The Northern Queen was an incalcula- 
bly more valuable piece on the board than was 
her Southern rival. With the Northern govern- 
ment in flight, Maryland would go to the Confed- 
eracy, and European recognition would be sure 
and immediate ; and these two facts might, almost 
surely would, be conclusive against the Northern 
cause. Moreover, memory will obstinately bring 
up the fact that long afterward, when General 
Grant was pursuing a route to Richmond strategi- 
cally not dissimilar to that proposed by McClel- 
lan, and when all the circumstances made the dan- 
ger of a successful attack upon Washington much 
less than it was in the spring of 1862, the rebels 
actually all but captured the city; and it was 
saved not alone by a rapidity of movement which 
would have been impossible in the early stages of 
the war, but also by what must be called the aid 
of good luck. It is difficult to see why General 
Jackson in 1862 might not have played in fatal 


earnest a game which in 1864 General Early 
played merely for the chances. Pondering upon 
these things it is probable that no array of military 
scientists will ever persuade the non-military world 
that Mr. Lincoln was so timid or so dull-witted 
or so unreasonable as General McClellan declared 
him to be. 

Another consideration is suggested by some re- 
marks of Mr. Swinton. It is tolerably obvious 
that, whether McClellan 's plan was or was not 
the better, the President's plan was entirely possi- 
ble; all that could be said against it was, that 
it promised somewhat poorer results at somewhat 
higher cost. This being the case, and in view of 
the fact that the President's disquietude concern- 
ing Washington was so profound and his distrust 
of McClellan 's plan so ineradicable, it would have 
been much better to have had the yielding come 
from the general than from the President. A man 
of less stubborn temper and of broader intellect 
than belonged to McClellan would have appre- 
ciated this. In fact, it was in a certain sense 
even poor generalship to enter upon a campaign 
of such magnitude, when a thorough and hearty 
cooperation was really not to be expected. For 
after all might be ostensibly settled and agreed 
upon, and however honest might be Mr. Lincoln's 
intentions to support the commanding general, 
one thing still remained certain: that the safety 
of the capital was Mr. Lincoln's weightiest re- 
sponsibility, that it was a matter concerning which 


he was sensitively anxious, and that he was per- 
fectly sure in any moment of alarm concerning 
that safety to ensure it by any means in his power 
and at any sacrifice whatsoever. In a word, that 
which soon did happen was precisely that which 
ought to have been foreseen as likely to happen. 
For it was entirely obvious that Mr. Lincoln did 
not abandon his own scheme because his own rea- 
son was convinced of the excellence of McClel- 
lan's; in fact he never was and never pretended 
to be thus convinced. To his mind McClellan's 
reasoning never overcame his own reasoning; he 
only gave way before professional authority; and, 
while he sincerely meant to give McClellan the 
most efficient aid and backing in his power, the 
anxiety about Washington rested immovable in 
his thought. If the two interests should ever, in 
his opinion, come into competition, no one could 
doubt which would be sacrificed. To push for- 
ward the Peninsula Campaign under these condi- 
tions was a terrible mistake of judgment on Mc- 
Clellan's part. Far better would it have been to 
have taken the Manassas route ; for even if its in- 
herent demerits were really so great as McClellan 
had depicted, they would have been more than 
offset by preserving the undiminished cooperation 
of the administration. The personal elements in 
the problem ought to have been conclusive. 

An indication of the error of forcing the Presi- 
dent into a course not commended by his judg- 
ment, in a matter where his responsibility was so 


grave, was seen immediately. On March 8 he 
issued General War Order No. 3 : That no change 
of base should be made "without leaving in and 
about Washington such a force as, in the opinion 
of the general-in-chief and the commanders of 
army corps, shall leave said city entirely secure;" 
that not more than two corps (about 50,000 men) 
should be moved en route for a new base until the 
Potomac, below Washington, should be freed from 
the Confederate batteries; that any movement of 
the army via Chesapeake Bay should begin as 
early as March 18, and that the general-in-chief 
should be "responsible that it moves as early as 
that day." This greatly aggravated McClellan's 
dissatisfaction; for it expressed the survival of 
the President's anxiety, it hampered the general, 
and by its last clause it placed upon him a respon- 
sibility not properly his own. 

Yet at this very moment weighty evidence came 
to impeach the soundness of McClellan's opinion 
concerning the military situation. On February 
27 Secretary Chase wrote that the time had come 
for dealing decisively with the "army in front of 
us," which he conceived to be already so weakened 
that "a victory over it is deprived of haK its 
honor." Not many days after this writing, the 
civilian strategists, the President and his friends, 
seemed entitled to triumph. For on March 7, 8, 
and 9, the North was astonished by news of the 
evacuation of Manassas by Johnston. At once the 
cry of McClellan's assailants went up: If McClel- 


Ian had only moved upon the place ! What a 
cheap victory he would have won, and attended 
with what invaluable "moral effects" ! Yet, for- 
sooth, he had been afraid to move upon these 
very intrenched positions which it now appeared 
that the Confederates dared not hold even when 
imthreatened ! But McClellan retorted that the 
rebels had taken this backward step precisely be- 
cause they had got some hint of his designs for ad- 
vancing by Urbana, and that it was the exact 
fulfilment, though inconveniently premature, of his 
predictions. This explanation, however, wholly 
failed to prevent the civilian mind from believing 
that a great point had been scored on behalf of the 
President's plan. Further than this, there were 
many persons, including even a majority of the 
members of the Committee on the Conduct of the 
War, who did not content themselves with mere 
abuse of McClellan 's military intelligence, but 
who actually charged him with being disaffected 
and nearly, if not quite, a traitor. None the less 
Mr. Lincoln generously and patiently adhered to 
his agreement to let McClellan have his own way. 
Precisely at the same time that this evacuation 
of Manassas gave to McClellan 's enemies an argu- 
ment against him which they deemed fair and 
forcible and he deemed unfair and ignorant, two 
other occurrences added to the strain of the situa- 
tion. McClellan immediately put his entire force 
in motion towards the lines abandoned by the Con- 
federates, not with the design of pressing the re- 


treating foe, which the "ahnost impassable roads" 
prevented, but to strip off redundancies and to 
train the troops in marching. On March 11, im- 
mediately after he had started, the President 
issued his Special War Order No. 3 : " Major-Gen- 
eral McClellan having personally taken the field 
at the head of the army of the Potomac, ... he 
is relieved from the command of the other military 
departments, he retaining command of the Depart- 
ment of the Potomac." McClellan at once wrote 
that he should continue to "work just as cheerfully 
as before; " but he felt that the removal was very 
unhandsomely made just as he was entering upon 
active operations. Lincoln on the other hand un- 
doubtedly looked upon it in precisely the opposite 
light, and conceived that the opportunity of the 
moment deprived of any apparent sting a change 
which he had determined to make. The duties 
which were thus taken from McClellan were as- 
sumed during several months by Mr. Stanton. 
He was utterly incompetent for them, and whether 
or not it was wise to displace the general, it was 
certainly very unwise to let the Secretary practi- 
cally succeed him.^ The way in which, both at 
the East and West, our forces were distributed 
into many independent commands with no com- 
petent chief who could compel all to cooperate 
and to become subsidiary to one comprehensive 
scheme, was a serious mistake in general policy, 
^ See remarks of Mr. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, i. 368. 


which cost very dear before it was recognized.^ 
McClellan had made some efforts to effect this 
combination or unity in purpose, but Stanton gave 
no indication even of understanding that it was 

The other matter was the division of the army 
of the Potomac into four army corps, to be com- 
manded respectively by the four senior generals 
of division, viz., McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman 
and Keyes. The propriety of this action had 
been for some time under consideration, and the 
step was now forced upon Mr. Lincoln by the 
strenuous insistance of the Committee on the Con- 
duct of the War. That so large an army required 
organization by corps was admitted; but McClel- 
lan had desired to defer the arrangement until his 
generals of division should have had some actual 
experience in the field, whereby their comparative 
fitness for higher responsibilities could be mea- 
sured. An incapable corps commander was a 
much more dangerous man than an incapable com- 
mander of a division or brigade. The com- 
mander naturally felt the action, now taken by the 
President, to be a slight, and he attributed it to 
pressure by the band of civilian advisers whose un- 
tiring hostility he returned with unutterable con- 
tempt. Not only was the taking of the step at 
this time contrary to his advice, but he was not 

1 E. g., McClellan, i?ep. (per Keyes), 82; Grant, Mem., I 322; 
and indeed all writers agxee upon this. 


even consulted in the selection of his own subordi- 
nates, who were set in these important positions 
by the blind rule of seniority, and not in accord- 
ance with his opinion of comparative merit. His 
irritation was perhaps not entirely unjustifiable. 



The man who first raised the cry " On to Rich- 
mond " uttered the formula of the war. Rich- 
mond was the gage of victory. Thus it happened, 
as has been seen, that every one at the North, 
from the President down, had his attention fast 
bound to the melancholy procession of delays and 
miscarriages in Virginia. At the West there 
were important things to be done; the States of 
Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, trembling in 
the balance, were to be lost or won for the Union; 
the passage down the Mississippi to the Gulf was 
at stake, and with it the prosperity and develop- 
ment of the boundless regions of the Northwest. 
Surely these were interests of some moment, and 
worthy of liberal expenditure of thought and en- 
ergy, men and money; yet the swarm of politi- 
cians gave them only side glances, being unable for 
many minutes in any day to withdraw their eyes 
from the Old Dominion. The consequence was 
that at the East matters military and matters polit- 
ical, generals and "public men" of all varieties 
were mixed in a snarl of back-biting and quarrel- 
ling, which presented a spectacle most melancholy 


and discouraging. On the other hand the West 
throve surprisingly well in the absence of politi- 
cal nourishment, and certain local commanders 
achieved cheering successes without any aid from 
the military civilians of Washington. The con- 
trast seems suggestive, yet perhaps it is incorrect 
to attach to these facts any sinister significance, or 
any connection of cause and effect. Other reasons 
than civilian assistance may account for the Vir- 
ginia failures, while Western successes may have 
been won in spite of neglect rather than by reason 
of it. Still, simply as naked facts, these things 
were so. 

Upon occurrences outside of Virginia Mr. Lin- 
coln bestowed more thought than was fashionable 
in Washington, and maintained an oversight 
strongly in contrast to the indifference of those 
who seemed to recognize no other duty than to 
discuss the demerits of General McClellan. The 
President had at least the good sense to see the 
value of unity of plan and cooperation along the 
whole line, from the Atlantic seaboard to the ex- 
treme West. Also at the West as at the East he 
was bent upon advancing, pressing the enemy, 
and doing something positive. He had not occa- 
sion to use the spur at the West either so often or 
so severely as at the East; yet Halleck and Buell 
needed it and got it more than once. The West- 
ern commanders, like those at the East, and with 
better reason, were importunate for more men and 
more equipment. The President could not, by 


&nj effort, meet their requirements. He wrote to 
McClernand after the battle of Belmont: "Much, 
very much, goes undone ; but it is because we have 
not the power to do it faster than we do." Some 
troops were without arms; but, he said, "the plain 
matter of fact is, our good people have rushed to 
the rescue of the government faster than the gov- 
ernment can find arms to put in their hands." 
Yet, withal, it is true that Mr. Lincoln's actual 
interferences at the South and West were so occa- 
sional and incidental, that, since this writing is a 
biography of him and not a history of the war, 
there is need only for a list of the events which 
were befalling outside of that absorbing domain 
which lay around the rival capitals. 

Along the southern Atlantic coast some rather 
easy successes were rapidly won. August 29, 
1861, Hatteras Inlet was taken, with little fight- 
ing. November 7, Port Royal followed. Lying 
nearly midway between Charleston and Savannah, 
and being a very fine harbor, this was a prize of 
value. January 7, 1862, General Burnside was 
directed to take command of the Department of 
North Carolina. February 8, Roanoke Island 
was seized by the Federal forces. March 14, New- 
bern fell. April 11, Fort Pulaski, at the mouth 
of the Savannah River, was taken. April 26, 
Beaufort was occupied. The blockade of the 
other Atlantic ports having long since been made 
effective, the Eastern seaboard thus early became 
a prison wall for the Confederacy. 


At the extreme West Missouri gave the President 
some trouble. The bushwhacking citizens of that 
frontier State, divided not unequally between the 
Union and Disunion sides, entered upon an irregu- 
lar but energetic warfare with ready zeal if not 
actually with pleasure. Northerners in general 
hardly paused to read the newspaper accounts of 
these rough encounters; but the President was 
much concerned to save the State. As it lay over 
against Illinois along the banks of the Mississippi 
River, and for the most part above the important 
strategic point where Cairo controls the junction of 
that river with the Ohio, possession of it appeared 
to him exceedingly desirable. In the hope of 
helping matters forward, on July 3, 1861, he 
created the Department of the West, and placed 
it under command of General Fremont. But the 
choice proved unfortunate. Fremont soon showed 
himself inefficient and troublesome. At first the 
President endeavored to allay the local bicker- 
ings; on September 9, 1861, he wrote to General 
Hunter : " General Fremont needs assistance which 
it is difficult to give him. He is losing the confi- 
dence of men near him. . . . His cardinal mistake 
is that he isolates himself ; ... he does not know 
what is going on. . . . He needs to have by his 
side a man of large experience. Will you not, for 
me, take that place ? Your rank is one grade too 
high; . . . but will you not serve the country, 
and oblige me, by taking it voluntarily? " Kindly 
consideration, however, was thrown away upon 


Fremont, whose self-esteem was so great that he 
could not see that he ought to be grateful, or that 
he must be subordinate. He owed his appoint- 
ment largely to the friendly urgency of the Blair 
family, and now Postmaster-General Blair, puz- 
zled at the disagreeable stories about him, went to 
St. Louis on an errand of investigation. Fremont 
promptly placed him under arrest. At the same 
time Mrs. Fremont was journeying to Washington, 
where she had an extraordinary interview with the 
President. "She sought an audience with me at 
midnight," wrote Lincoln, "and taxed me so vio- 
lently with many things that I had to exercise all 
the awkward tact I have to avoid quarrelling with 
her. . . . She more than once intimated that if 
General Fremont should decide to try conclusions 
with me, he could set up for himself." Naturally 
the angry lady's thi'eats of treason, instead of seem- 
ing a palliation of her husband's shortcomings, 
tended to made his displacement more inevitable. 
Yet the necessity of being rid of him was unfortu- 
nate, because he was the pet hero of the Abolition- 
ists, who stood by him without the slightest regard 
to reason. Lincoln was loath to offend them, but 
he felt that he had no choice, and therefore ordered 
the removal. He preserved, however, that habit- 
ual strange freedom from personal resentment 
which made his feelings, like his action, seem to 
be strictly official. After the matter was all over 
he uttered a fair judgment: "I thought well of 
Fremont. Even now I think well of his impulses. 


I only think he is the prey of wicked and design- 
ing men ; and I think he has absolutely no military 
capacity." For a short while General Hunter 
filled Fremont's place, until, in November, Gen- 
eral Henry W. Halleck was assigned to command 
the Department of Missouri. In February, 1862, 
General Curtis drove the only regular and consid- 
erable rebel force across the border into Arkansas ; 
and soon afterward, March 7 and 8, within this 
latter State, he won the victory of Pea Kidge. 

In Tennessee the vote upon secession had indi- 
cated that more than two thirds of the dwellers in 
the mountainous eastern region were Unionists. 
Mr. Lincoln had it much at heart to sustain these 
men, and aside from the personal feeling of loyalty 
to them it was also a point of great military con- 
sequence to hold this district. Near the boundary 
separating the northeastern corner of the State from 
Kentucky, the famous Cumberland Gap gave pas- 
sage through the Cumberland Mountains for the 
East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, " the artery 
that supplied the rebellion." The President saw, 
as many others did, and appreciated much more 
than others seemed to do, the desirability of gain- 
ing this place. To hold it would be to cut in 
halves, between east and west, the northern line of 
the Confederacy. In the early days a movement 
towards the Gap seemed imprudent in face of 
Kentucky's theory of "neutrality." But this fool- 
ish notion was in time effectually disposed of by 
the Confederates. Unable to resist the temptation 


offered by the important position of Columbus at 
the western end of the State on the Mississippi 
Eiver, they seized that place in September, 1861. 
The state legislature, incensed at the intrusion, 
immediately embraced the Union cause and wel- 
comed the Union forces within the state lines. 

This action opened the way for the President to 
make strenuous efforts for the protection of the 
East Tennesseeans and the possession of the Gap. 
In his annual Message he urged upon Congress the 
construction of a military railroad to the Gap, and 
afterward appeared in person to advocate this 
measure before a committee of the Senate. If the 
place had been in Virginia, he might have gained 
for his project an attention which, as matters stood, 
the politicians never accorded to it. He also en- 
deavored to stir to action General Buell, who com- 
manded in Kentucky. Buell, an appointee and 
personal friend of General McClellan, resembled 
his chief somewhat too closely both in character 
and history. Just as Mr. Lincoln had to prick 
McClellan in Virginia, he now had to prick Buell 
in Kentucky, and just as McClellan failed to re- 
spond in Virginia, Buell also failed in Kentucky. 
Further, Buell, like McClellan, had with him a 
force very much greater than that before him ; but 
Buell, like McClellan, would not admit that his 
troops were in condition to move. The result was 
that Jefferson Davis, more active to protect a cru- 
cial point than the North was to assail it, in De- 
cember, 1861, sent into East Tennessee a force 


which imprisoned, deported, and hanged the loyal 
residents there, harried the country without mercy j- 
and held it with the iron hand. The poor moun- 
taineers, with good reason, concluded that the hos- 
tility of the South was a terribly serious evil, 
whereas the friendship of the North was a sadly 
useless good. The President was bitterly cha- 
grined; although certainly the blame did not rest 
with him. Then the parallel between Buell and 
McClellan was continued even one step further j 
for Buell at last intimated that he did not approve 
of the plan of campaign suggested for him, but 
thought it would be better tactics to move upon 
Nashville. It so happened, however, that when 
he expressed these views McClellan was comman- 
der-in-chief of all the armies, and that general, 
being little tolerant of criticism from subordinates 
when he himself was the superior, responded very 
tartly and imperiously. Lincoln, on the other 
hand, according to his wont, wrote modestly: 
"Your dispatch . . . disappoints and distresses 
me. ... I am not competent to criticise your 
views." Then, in the rest of the letter, he main- 
tained with convincing clearness both the military 
and the political soundness of his own opinions. 

In offset of this disappointment caused by Bu- 
ell 's inaction, the western end of Kentucky became 
the theatre of gratifying operations. So soon as 
policy ceased to compel recognition of the "neu- 
trality " of the State, General Grant, on Septem- 
ber 6, 1861, entered Paducah at the confluence of 


the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. By this move he 
checked the water communication hitherto freely 
used by the rebels, and neutralized the advantage 
which they had expected to gain by their posses- 
sion of Columbus. But this was only a first and 
easy step. Further to the southward, just within 
the boundaries of Tennessee, lay Fort Henry on 
the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the 
Cumberland, presenting a kind of temptation 
which Grant was less able to resist than were most 
of the Union generals at this time. Accordingly 
he arranged with Admiral Foote, who commanded 
the new gunboats on the Mississippi, for a joint 
excursion against these places. On February 6, 
Fort Henry fell, chiefly through the work of the 
river navy. Ten days later, February 16, Fort 
Donelson was taken, the laurels on this occasion 
falling to the land forces. Floyd and Pillow were 
in the place when the Federals came to it, but 
when they saw that capture was inevitable, they 
furtively slipped away and thus shifted upon Gen- 
eral Buckner the humiliation of the surrender. 
This mean behavior excited the bitter resentment 
of that general, which was not alleviated by what 
followed. For when he proposed to discuss terms 
of capitulation. General Grant made that famous 
reply which gave rise to his popular nickname: 
"No terms except unconditional and immediate 
surrender can be accepted. I propose to move 
immediately upon your works." 

HaUeck telegraphed the pleasant news that the 


capture of Fort Donelson carried with it "12,000 
to 15,000 prisoners, including Generals Buckner 
and Bushrod R. Johnson, also about 20,000 stands 
of arms, 48 pieces of artillery, 17 heavy guns, 
from 2000 to 4000 horses, and large quantities 
of commissary stores." He also advised: "Make 
Buell, Grant, and Pope major-generals of volun- 
teers, and give me command in the West. I ask 
this in return for Forts Henry and Donelson." 
Halleck was one of those who expect to reap 
where others sow. The achievements of Grant 
and Foote also led him, by some strange process 
of reasoning, to conclude that General C. W. 
Smith was the most able general in his depart- 

Congress, highly gratified at these cheering 
events, ordered a grand illumination at Washing- 
ton for February 22 ; but the death of the Presi- 
dent's little son, at the White House, a day or 
two before that date, checked a rejoicing, which 
in other respects also would not have been alto- 
gether timely. 

The Federal possession of these two forts ren- 
dered Columbus untenable for the Confederates, 
and on March 2 they evacuated it. This was 
followed by the fall of New Madrid on March 13, 
and of Island No. 10 on April 7. At the latter 
place between 6000 and 7000 Confederates sur- 
rendered. Thus was the Federal wedge being 
driven steadily deeper down the channel of the 


Soon after this good service of the gunboats on 
the Western rivers, the salt water navy came in for 
its share of glory. On March 8 the ram Virginia, 
late Merrimac, which had been taking on her mys- 
terious iron raiment at the Norfolk navy yard, 
issued from her concealment, an ugly and clumsy, 
but also a novel and terrible monster. Straight 
she steamed against the frigate Cumberland, and 
with one fell rush cut the poor wooden vessel in 
halves and sent her, with all on board, to the 
bottom of the sea. Turning then, she mercilessly 
battered the frigate Congress, drove her ashore, 
and burned her. All this while the shot which 
had rained upon her iron sides had rolled off harm- 
less, and she returned to her anchorage, having her 
jjrow broken by impact with the Cumberland, but 
otherwise unhurt. Her armor had stood the test, 
and now the Federal government contemplated 
with grave anxiety the further possible achieve- 
ments of this strange and potent destroyer. 

But the death of the Merrimac was to follow 
close upon her birth ; she was the portent of a few 
weeks only. For, during a short time past, there 
had been also rapidly building in a Connecticut 
yard the Northern marvel, the famous Monitor. 
When the ingenious Swede, John Ericsson, pro- 
posed his scheme for an impregnable floating bat- 
tery, his hearers were divided between distrust 
and hope; but fortunately the President's favor- 
able opinion secured the trial of the experiment. 
The work was zealously pushed, and the artisans 


actually went to sea with the craft in order to 
finish her as she made her voyage southward. It 
was well that such haste was made, for she came 
into Hampton Roads actually by the light of the 
burning Congress. On the next day, being Sun- 
day, March 9, the Southern monster again steamed 
forth, intending this time to make the Minnesota 
her prey; but a little boat, that looked like a 
"cheese-box " afloat, pushed forward to interfere 
with this plan. Then occurred a duel which, in 
the annals of naval science, ranks as the most im- 
portant engagement which ever took place. It did 
not actually result in the destruction of the Merri- 
mac then and there, for, though much battered, 
she was able to make her way back to the friendly 
shelter of the Norfolk yard. But she was more 
than neutralized; it was evident that the Mon- 
itor was the better craft of the two, and that in a 
combat a outrance she would win. The signifi- 
cance of this day's work on the waters of Virginia 
cannot be exaggerated. By the armor-clad Merri- 
mac and the Monitor there was accomplished in 
the course of an hour a revolution which differ- 
entiated the naval warfare of the past from that 
of the future by a chasm as great as that which 
separated the ancient Greek trireme from the 
flagship of Lord Nelson. 

As early as the middle of November, 1861, Mr. 
Lincoln was discussing the feasibility of capturing 
New Orleans. Already Ship Island, off the Mis- 
sissippi coast, with its uncompleted equipment, had 


been seized as a Gulf station, and could be used as 
a base. The naval force was prepared as rapidly 
as possible, but it was not until February 3 that 
Captain Farragut, the commander of the expedi- 
tion, steamed out of Hampton Roads in his flag- 
ship, the screw steam sloop Hartford. On April 
18 he began to bombard forts St. Philip and Jack- 
son, which lie on the river banks seventy - five 
miles below New Orleans, guarding the approach. 
Soon, becoming impatient of this tardy process, he 
resolved upon the bold and original enterprise of 
running by the forts. This he achieved in the 
night of April 24 ; and on April 27 the stars and 
stripes floated over the Mint in New Orleans. 
Still two days of shilly-shallying on the part of 
the mayor ensued, delaying a formal surrender, 
until Farragut, who had no fancy for nonsense, 
sharply put a stop to it, and New Orleans, in form 
and substance, passed under Northern control. 
On April 28 the two forts, isolated by what had 
taken place, surrendered. On May 1 General 
Butler began in the city that efficient regime which 
so exasperated the men of the South. On May 7 
Baton Rouge, the state capital, was occupied, 
without resistance; and Natchez followed in the 
procession on May 12. 

With one Union fleet at the mouth of the Mis- 
sissippi and another at Island No. 10, and the Un- 
ion army not far from the river-side in Kentucky 
and Tennessee, the opening and repossession of 
the whole stream by the Federals became a thing 


which ought soon to be achieved. On June 5 the 
gunboat fleet from up the river came down to 
within two miles of Memphis, engaged in a hard 
fight and won a complete victory, and on the next 
day Memphis was held by the Union troops. 
Farragut, also, working in his usual style, forced 
his way up to Vicksburg, and exchanged shots 
with the Confederate batteries on the bluffs. He 
found, however, that without the cooperation of a 
land force he could do nothing, and had to drop 
back again to New Orleans, arriving there on June 
1. In a few weeks he returned in stronger force, 
and on June 27 he was bombarding the rebel 
works. On June 28, repeating the operation 
which had been so successful below New Orleans, 
he ran some of his vessels by the batteries and got 
above the city. But there was still no army on 
the land, and so the vessels which had run by, up 
stream, had to make the dangerous gauntlet again, 
down stream, and a second time the fleet de- 
scended to New Orleans. 

General Halleck had arrived at St. Louis on 
November 18, 1861, to take command of the West- 
ern Department. Perhaps a more energetic com- 
mander would have been found ready to cooperate 
with Farragut at Vicksburg by the end of June, 
1862 ; for matters had been going excellently with 
the Unionists northeast of that place and it would 
seem that a powerful and victorious army might 
have been moving thither during that month. 
Early in March, however. General Halleck re- 


ported that Grant's army was as much demoralized 
by victory as the army at Bull Run had been by 
defeat. He said that Grant "richly deserved" 
censure, and that he himseK was worn out by 
Grant's neglect and inefficiency. By such charges 
he obtained from McClellan orders relieving Gen- 
eral Grant from duty, ordering an investigation, 
and even authorizing his arrest. But a few days 
later, March 13, more correct information caused 
the reversal of these orders, and March 17 found 
Grant again in command. He at once began to 
busy himself with arrangements for moving upon 
Corinth. General Buell, meanwhile, after sus- 
taining McClellan 's rebuke and being taught his 
place, had afterward been successful in obtaining 
for his own plan preference over that of the ad- 
ministration, had easily possessed himself of Nash- 
ville toward the end of February, and was now 
ready to march westward and cooperate with Gen- 
eral Grant in this enterprise. Corinth, lying just 
across the Mississippi border, was "the great 
strategic position " at this part of the West. The 
Mobile and Ohio railroad ran through it, north 
and south; the Memphis and Charleston railroad 
passed through, east and west. If it could be taken 
and held, it would leave as the only connection 
open through the Confederacy from the Missis- 
sippi River to the Atlantic coast the railroad line 
which started from Vicksburg. The Confederates 
also had shown their estimation of Corinth by for- 
tifying it strongly, and manifesting plainly their 


determination to figiit a great battle to hold it. 
Grant, aiming towards it, had his army at Pitts- 
burg Landing, on the west bank of the Missis- 
sippi, and there awaited Buell, who was moving 
thither from Nashville with 40,000 men. Such 
being the status. Grant expected General A. S. 
Johnston to await in his intrenchments the assault 
of the Union army. But Johnston, in an aggres- 
sive mood, laid well and boldly his plan to whip 
Grant before Buell could join him, then to whip 
Buell, and, having thus disposed of the Northern 
forces in detail, to carry the war up to, or even 
across, the Ohio. So he came suddenly out from 
Corinth and marched straight upon Pittsburg 
Landing, and precipitated that famous battle 
which has been named after the church of Shiloh, 
because about that church the most desperate and 
bloody fighting was done. 

The conflict began on Sunday, April 6, and 
lasted all day. There was not much plan about 
it; the troops went at each other somewhat indis- 
criminately and did simple stubborn fighting. The 
Federals lost much ground all along their line, and 
were crowded back towards the river. Some say 
that the Confederates closed that day on the way 
to victory; but General Grant says that he felt 
assured of winning on Monday, and that he in- 
structed all his division commanders to open with 
an assault in the morning. The doubt, if doubt 
there was, was settled by the arrival of General 
BueU, whose fresh forces, coming in as good an 


hour as the Prussians came at Waterloo, were put 
in during the evening upon the Federal left. On 
Sunday the Confederates had greatly outnumbered 
the Federals, but this reinforcement reversed the 
proportions, so that on Monday the Federals were 
in the greater force. Again the conflict was fierce 
and obstinate, but again the greater numbers 
whipped the smaller, and by afternoon the Con- 
federates were in full retreat. Shiloh, says Gen- 
eral Grant, " was the severest battle fought at 
the West during the war, and but few in the 
East equalled it for hard, determined fighting." 
It ended in a complete Union victory. General A. 
S. Johnston was killed and Beauregard retreated 
to Corinth, while the North first exulted because 
he was compelled to do so, and then grumbled be- 
cause he was allowed to do so. It was soon said 
that Grant had been surprised, that he was entitled 
to no credit for winning clumsily a battle which he 
had not expected to fight, and that he was blame- 
worthy for not following up the retreating foe 
more sharply. The discussion survives among 
those quarrels of the war in which the disputants 
have fought over again the contested field, with 
harmless fierceness, and without any especial result. 
Congress took up the dispute, and did a vast deal 
of talking, in the course of which there occurred 
one sensible remark. This was made by Mr. Rich- 
ardson, of Illinois, who said that the armies would 
get along much better if the Riot Act could be 
read, and the members of Congress dispersed and 
sent home. 


General Grant found that General Halleck was 
even more obstinately in the way of his winning 
any success than were the Confederates themselves. 
As Commander of the Department, Halleck now 
conceived that it was his fair privilege to do the 
visible taking of that conspicuous prize which his 
lieutenant had brought within sure reach. Ac- 
cordingly, on April 11, he arrived and assumed 
command for the purpose of moving on Corinth. 
Still he was sedulous in his endeavors to neglect, 
suppress, and even insult General Grant, whom 
he put nominally second in command, but practi- 
cally reduced to insignificance, until Grant, find- 
ing his position "unendurable," asked to be re- 
lieved. This conduct on the part of Halleck has 
of course been attributed to jealousy; but more 
probably it was due chiefly to the personal preju- 
dice of a dull man, perhaps a little stimulated by 
a natural desire for reputation. Having taken 
charge of the advance, he conducted it slowly and 
cautiously, intrenching as he went, and moving 
with pick and shovel, in the phrase of General 
Sherman, who commanded a division in the army. 
"The movement," says General Grant, "was a 
siege from the start to the close." Such tactics 
had not hitherto been tried at the West, and ap- 
parently did not meet approval. There were only 
about twenty-two miles to be traversed, yet four 
weeks elapsed in the process. The army started 
on April 30 ; twice Pope got near the enemy, first 
on May 4, and again on May 8, and each time he 


was ordered back. It was actually May 28, ac- 
cording to General Grant, when "the investment 
of Corinth was complete, or as complete as it was 
ever made." But already, on May 26, Beaure- 
gard had issued orders for evacuating the place, 
which was accomplished with much skill. On 
May 30 Halleck drew up his army in battle array 
and "announced in orders that there was every 
indication that our left was to be attacked that 
morning." A few hours later his troops marched 
unopposed into empty works. 

Halleck now commanded in Corinth a powerful 
army, — the forces of Grant, Buell, and Pope, 
combined, — not far from 100,000 strong, and 
he was threatened by no Southern force at all able 
to face him. According to the views of General 
Grant, he had great opportunities; and among 
these certainly was the advance of a strong column 
upon Vicksburg. If he could be induced to do 
this it seemed reasonable to expect that he and 
Farragut together would be able to open the whole 
Mississippi River and to cut the last remaining 
east - and - west line of railroad communication. 
But he did nothing, and ultimately the disposition 
made of this splendid collection of troops was to 
distribute and dissipate it in such a manner that 
the loss of the points already gained became much 
more probable than the acquisition of others. 

Early in July, as has been elsewhere said, Hal- 
leck was called to Washington to take the place of 
general-in-chief of all the armies of the North; 


and at this point perhaps it is worth while to de- 
vote a paragraph to comparing the retirement of 
McClellan with the promotion of Halleek. Some 
similarities and dissimilarities in their careers are 
striking. The dissimilarities were : that McClellan 
had organized the finest army which the country 
had yet seen, or was to see ; also that he had at 
least made a plan for a great campaign ; and he 
had not suppressed any one abler than himseK; 
that Halleek on the other hand had done little 
to organize an army or to plan a campaign, had 
failed to find out the qualities of General W. T. 
Sherman, who was in his Department, and had 
done all in his power to drive General Grant into 
retirement. The similarities are more worthy of 
observation. Each general had wearied the ad- 
ministration with demands for reinforcements 
when each already outnumbered his opponent so 
much that it was almost disgraceful to desire to 
increase the odds. If McClellan had been repre- 
hensibly slow in moving upon Yorktown, and had 
blundered by besieging instead of trying an assault, 
certainly the snail-like approach upon Corinth had 
been equally deliberate and wasteful of time and 
opportunity; and if McClellan had marched into 
deserted intrenchments so also had Halleek. If 
McClellan had captured "Quaker guns" at Ma- 
nassas, Halleek had found the like peaceful wea- 
pons frowning from the ramparts of Corinth. If 
McClellan had held inactive a powerful force when 
it ought to have been marching to Manassas, Hal- 


leek had also held inactive another powerful force, 
a part of which might have helped to take Vicks- 
burg. If the records of these two men were stated 
in parallel columns, it would be difficult to see 
why one should have been taken and the other 
left. But the explanation exists and is instruc- 
tive, and it is wholly for the sake of the expla- 
nation that the comparison has been made. Mc- 
Clellan was "in politics," and Halleck was not; 
McClellan, therefore, had a host of active, un- 
sparing enemies in Washington, which Halleck 
had not ; the Virginia field of operations was cease- 
lessly and microscopically inspected; the Western 
field attracted occasional glances not conducive to 
a full knowledge. Halleck, as commander in a de- 
partment where victories were won, seemed to have 
won the victories, and no politicians cared to deny 
his right to the glory; whereas the politicians 
whose hatred of McClellan had, by the admission 
of one of themselves, become a mania, ^ were en- 
tirely happy to have any one set over his head, 
and would not imperil their pleasure by too close 
an inspection of the new aspirant's merits. These 
remarks are not designed to have any significance 
upon the merits or demerits of McClellan, which 
have been elsewhere discussed, nor upon the merits 
or demerits of Halleck, which are not worth dis- 
cussing; but they are made simply because they 
afford so forcible an illustration of certain import- 
ant conditions at Washington at this time. The 

1 Geo. W. Jvdian, Polit. Recoil., 204. 


truth is that the ensnarlment of the Eastern mili- 
tary affairs with politics made success in that field 
impossible for the North. The condition made it 
practically inevitable that a Union commander in 
Virginia should have his thoughts at least as much 
occupied with the members of Congress in the capi- 
tal behind him as with the Confederate soldiers in 
camp before him. Such division of his attention 
was ruinous. At and before the outbreak of the 
rebellion the South had expected to be aided effi- 
ciently by a great body of sympathizers at the 
North. As yet they had been disappointed in this ; 
but almost simultaneously with this disappointment 
they were surprised by a valuable and unexpected 
assistance, growing out of the open feuds, the cov- 
ert malice, the bad blood, the partisanship, and 
the wire-pulling introduced by the loyal political 
fraternity into campaigning business. The quar- 
relling politicians were doing, very efficiently, the 
work which Southern sympathizers had been ex- 
pected to do. 



To the people who had been engaged in chang- 
ing Illinois from a wilderness into a civilized 
State, Europe had been an abstraction, a mere col- 
ored spot upon a map, which in their lives meant 
nothing. Though England had been the home of 
their ancestors, it was really less interesting than 
the west coast of Africa, which was the home of 
the negroes; for the negroes were just now of 
vastly more consequence than the ancestors. So 
even Dahomey had some claim to be regarded as a 
more important place than Great Britain, and the 
early settlers wasted little thought on the affairs of 
Queen Victoria. Amid these conditions, absorbed 
even more than his neighbors in the exciting ques- 
tions of domestic politics, and having no tastes or 
pursuits which guided his thoughts abroad, Mr. 
Lincoln had never had occasion to consider the 
foreign relations of the United States, up to the 
time when he was suddenly obliged to take an ac- 
tive part in managing them. 

At an early stage of the civil dissensions each 
side hoped for the good-will of England. For 
obvious reasons that island counted to the United 


States for more than the whole continent of Eu- 
rope; indeed, the continental nations were likely 
to await and to follow her lead. Southern orators, 
advocating secession, assured their hearers that 
"King Cotton " would be the supreme power, and 
would compel that realm of spinners and weavers 
to friendship if not to alliance with the Confeder- 
acy. Northern men, on the other hand, expressed 
confidence that a people with the record of Eng- 
lishmen against slavery would not countenance a 
war conducted in behalf of that institution; nor 
did they allow their hopes to be at all impaired 
by the consideration that, in order to found them 
upon this support, they had to overlook the fact 
that they were at the same time distinctly declar- 
ing that slavery really had nothing to do with the 
war, in which only and strictly the question of 
the Union, the integrity of the nation, was at 
stake. When the issue was pressing for actual 
decision, each side was disappointed; and each 
found that it had counted upon a motive which 
fell far short of exerting the anticipated influence. 
It was, of course, the case that England suffered 
much from the short supply of cotton; but she 
made shift to procure it elsewhere, while the work- 
ing people, sympathizing with the North, were 
surprisingly patient. Thus the political pressure 
arising from commercial distress was much less 
than had been expected, and the South learned 
that cotton was only a spurious monarch. Not 
less did the North find itself deceived; for the 


upper and middle classes of Great Britain ap- 
peared absolutely indifferent to the humanitarian 
element which, as they were assured, underlay the 
struggle. Perhaps they were not to be blamed for 
setting aside these assurances and accepting in 
place thereof the belief that the American leaders 
spoke the truth when they solemnly told the North 
that the question at issue was purely and simply 
of "the Union." The unfortunate fact was that it 
was necessary to say one thing to Englishmen and 
a different thing to Americans. 

That which really did inspire the feelings and 
the wishes, and wTiich did influence, though it 
could not be permitted fully to control, the action 
of England, had not been counted upon by either 
section of the country; perhaps its existence had 
not been appreciated. This was the intense dis- 
like felt for the American Republic by nearly all 
Englishmen who were above the social grade of 
mechanics and mill operatives. The extent and 
force of this antipathy and even contempt were for 
the first time given free expression under the irre- 
sistible provocation which arose out of the delight- 
ful likelihood of the destruction of the United 
States. The situation at least gave to the people 
of that imperilled country a chance to find out in 
what estimation they were held across the water. 
The behavior of the English government and the 
attitude of the English press during the early part 
of the Civil War have been ascribed by different 
historians to one or another dignified political or 


commercial motive. But while these influences 
were certainly not absent, yet the English news- 
papers poured an inundating flood of evidence to 
show that genuine and deep-seated dislike, not to 
say downright hatred, was by very much the prin- 
cipal motive. This truth is so painful and unfor- 
tunate that many have thought best to suppress or 
deny it; but no historian is entitled to use such 
discretion. From an early period, therefore, in 
the administration of Mr. Lincoln, he and Mr. 
Seward had to endeavor to preserve friendly rela- 
tions with a power which, if she could only make 
entirely sure of the worldly wisdom of yielding to 
her wishes, would instantly recognize the indepen- 
dence of the South. This being the case, it was 
matter for regret that the rules of international 
law concerning blockades, contraband of war, and 
rights of neutrals were perilously vague and un- 

Earl ^ Russell was at this time in charge of 
her Majesty's foreign affairs. Because in matters 
domestic he was liberal-minded, Americans had 
been inclined to expect his good-will ; but he now 
disappointed them by appearing to share the preju- 
dices of his class against the Republic . A series 
of events soon revealed his temper. So soon as 
there purported to be a Confederacy, an under- 
standing had been reached betwixt him and the 
French Emperor that both powers should take the 

^ Lord John Russell was raised to the peerage, as Earl Rus- 
sell, just after this time, i. e.,in July, 1861. 


same course as to recognizing it. About May 1 
he admitted three Southern commissioners to an 
audience with him, though not "officially." May 
13 there was published a proclamation, whereby 
Queen Victoria charged and commanded all her 
"loving subjects to observe a strict neutrality" in 
and during the hostilities, which had "unhappily 
commenced between the government of the United 
States and certain States styling themselves 'the 
Confederate States of America.' " This action — 
this assumption of a position of "neutrality," as 
between enemies — taken while the "hostilities" 
had extended only to the single incident of Fort 
Sumter, gave surprise and some offense to the 
North. It was a recognition of belligerency; that 
is to say, while not in any other respects recogniz- 
ing the revolting States as an independent power, 
it accorded to them the rights of a belligerent. 
The magnitude very quickly reached by the strug- 
gle would have made this step necessary and 
proper, so that if England had only gone a trifle 
more slowly, she would soon have reached the same 
point without exciting any anger; but now the 
North felt that the Queen's government had been 
altogether too forward in assuming this position at 
a time when the question of a real war was still in 
embryo. Moreover, the unfriendliness was aggra- 
vated by the fact that the proclamation was issued 
almost at the very hour of the arrival in London 
of Mr. Charles Francis Adams, the new minister 
sent by Mr. Lincoln to the Court of St. James. 


It seemed, therefore, not open to reasonable doubt 
that Earl Russell had purposely hastened to take 
his position before he could hear from the Lincoln 

When Mr. Seward got news of this, his temper 
gave way; so that, being still new to diplomacy, 
he wrote a dispatch to Mr. Adams wherein oc- 
curred words and phrases not so carefully selected 
as they should have been. He carried it to Mr. 
Lincoln, and soon received it back revised and 
corrected, instructively. A 2^^'^ori, one would 
have anticipated the converse of this. 

The essential points of the paper were : — 

That Mr. Adams would "desist from all inter- 
course whatever, unofficial as well as official, with 
the British government, so long as it shall con- 
tinue intercourse of either kind with the domestic 
enemies of this country." 

That the United States had a "right to expect a 
more independent if not a more friendly course " 
than was indicated by the understanding between 
England and France; but that Mr. Adams would 
"take no notice of that or any other alliance." 

He was to pass by the question as to whether the 
blockade must be respected in case it should not 
be maintained by a competent force, and was to 
state that the "blockade is now, and will continue 
to be, so maintained, and therefore we expect it to 
be respected." 

As to recognition of the Confederacy, either by 
publishing an acknowledgment of its sovereignty, 


or officially receiving its representatives, he was 
to inform tlie Earl that "no one of these proceed- 
ings will pass unquestioned." Also, he might 
suggest that "a concession of belligerent rights is 
liable to be construed as a recognition" of the 
Confederate States. Recognition, he was to say, 
could be based only on the assumption that these 
States were a self - sustaining power. But now, 
after long forbearance, the United States having 
set their forces in motion to suppress the insurrec- 
tion, "the true character of the pretended new 
state is at once revealed. It is seen to be a power 
existing in pronunciamento only. It has never 
won a field. It has obtained no forts that were 
not virtually betrayed into its hands or seized in 
breach of trust. It commands not a single port on 
the coast, nor any highway out from its pretended 
capital by land. Under these circumstances. 
Great Britain is called upon to intervene, and give 
it body and independence by resisting our mea- 
sures of suppression. British recognition would 
be British intervention to create within our own 
territory a hostile state by overthrowing this Re- 
public itself." In Mr. Seward's draft a menacing 
sentence followed these words, but Mr. Lincoln 
drew his pen through it. 

Mr. Adams was to say that the treatment of in- 
surgent privateers was "a question exclusively our 
own," and that we intended to treat them as pi- 
rates.^ If Great Britain should recognize them as 

^ An effort was made to carry out this theory in the case of the 


lawful belligerents and give them shelter, "the 
laws of nations afford an adequate and proper 
remedy; " — "awe? we shall avail ourselves of it^''^ 
added Mr. Seward; but again Mr. Lincoln's pru- 
dent pen went through these words of provocation. 

Finally Mr. Adams was instructed to offer the 
adhesion of the United States to the famous Decla- 
ration of the Congress of Paris, of 1856, which 
concerned sundry matters of neutrality. 

The letter ended with two paragraphs of that 
patriotic rodomontade which seems eminently 
adapted to domestic consumption in the United 
States, but which, if it ever came beneath the eye 
of the British minister, probably produced an 
effect very different from that which was aimed at. 
Mr. Lincoln had the good taste to write on the 
margin: "Drop all from this line to the end; " but 
later he was induced to permit the nonsense to 
stand, since it was really harmless. 

The amendments made by the President in point 
of quantity were trifling, but in respect of im- 
portance were very great. AU that he did was 
here and there to change or to omit a phrase, 
which established no position, but which in the 
strained state of feeling might have had serious 
results. The condition calls to mind the descrip- 
tion of the summit of the Alleghany ridge, where 
the impulses given by almost imperceptible in- 

crew of the privateer Savannah ; but the jury failed to agree, and 
the attempt was not afterward renewed, private ersmen being ex- 
changed like other prisoners of war. 


equalities in the surface of the rock have for their 
ultimate result the dispatching of mighty rivers 
either through the Atlantic slope to the ocean, or 
down the Mississippi Valley to the Gulf of Mex- 
ico. A few adjectives, two or three ever so little 
sentences, in this dispatch, might have led to peace 
or to war; and peace or war with England almost 
surely meant, respectively, Union or Disunion in 
the United States. In fact, no more important 
state paper was issued by Mr. Seward. It estab- 
lished our relations with Great Britain, and by 
consequence also with France and with the rest of 
Europe, during the whole period of the Civil War. 
Its positions, moderate in themselves, and reso- 
lutely laid down, were never materially departed 
from. The English minister did not afterward 
give either official or unofficial audiences to ac- 
credited rebel emissaries; the blockade was main- 
tained by a force so competent that the British 
government acquiesced in it ; no recognition of the 
Confederacy was ever made, either in the ways 
prohibited or in any way whatsoever; it is true 
that bitter controversies arose concerning Confed- 
erate privateers, and to some extent England 
failed to meet our position in this matter; but it 
was rather the application of our rule than the rule 
itself which was in dispute; and she afterward, 
under the Geneva award, made full payment for 
her derelictions. The behavior and the proposal 
of terms, which constituted a practical exclusion of 
the United States from the benefits of the Treaty 


of Paris, certainly involved something of indig- 
nity ; but in this the country had no actual rights ; 
and to speak frankly, since she had refused to come 
in when invited, she could hardly complain of an 
inhospitable reception when, under the influence of 
immediate and stringent seK-interest, her diploma- 
tists saw fit to change their course. So, on the 
whole, it is not to be denied that delicate and novel 
business in the untried department of foreign diplo- 
macy was managed with great skill, under trying 
circumstances. A few months later, in his Message 
to Congress, at the beginning of December, 1861, 
the President referred to our foreign relations in 
the following paragraphs : — 

"The disloyal citizens of the United States, who 
have offered the ruin of our country in return for 
the aid and comfort which they have invoked 
abroad, have received less patronage and encour- 
agement than they probably expected. If it were 
just to suppose, as the insurgents have seemed to 
assume, that foreign nations, in this case, discard- 
ing all moral, social, and treaty obligations, would 
act solely and selfishly for the speedy restoration 
of commerce including especially the acquisition of 
cotton, those nations appear as yet not to have seen 
their way to their object more directly or clearly 
through the destruction than through the preserva- 
tion of the Union. If we could dare to believe 
that foreign nations are actuated by no higher 
principle than this, I am quite sure a sound argu- 
ment could be made to show them that they can 


reach their aim more readily and easily by aiding 
to crush this rebellion than by giving encourage- 
ment to it. 

"The principal lever relied on by these insur- 
gents for exciting foreign nations to hostility 
against us, as already intimated, is the embarrass- 
ment of commerce. Those nations, however, not 
improbably saw from the first that it was the 
Union which made as well our foreign as our do- 
mestic commerce. They can scarcely have failed 
to perceive that the effort for disunion produces 
the existing difficulty; and that one strong nation 
promises more durable peace and a more extensive, 
valuable, and reliable commerce than can the same 
nation broken into hostile fragments. 

"It is not my purpose to review our discussions 
with foreign States; because, whatever might be 
their wishes or dispositions, the integrity of our 
country and the stability of our government mainly 
depend not upon them but on the loyalty, virtue, 
patriotism and intelligence of the American people. 
The correspondence itself with the usual reserva- 
tions is herewith submitted. I venture to hope it 
will appear that we have practiced prudence and 
liberality toward foreign Powers, averting causes 
of irritation, and with firmness maintaining our 
own rights and honor." 

While this carefully measured language cer- 
tainly fell far short of expressing indifference con- 
cerning European action, it was equally far from 
betraying any sense of awe or dependence as 


towards the great nations across the Atlantic. 
Yet in fact beneath its self-contained moderation 
there unquestionably was politic concealment of 
very profound anxiety. Since the war did in fact 
maintain to the end an entirely domestic character, 
it is now difficult fully to appreciate the apprehen- 
sions which were felt, especially in its earlier stages, 
lest England or France or both might interfere 
with conclusive effect in favor of the Confederacy. 
It was very well for Mr. Lincoln to state the mat- 
ter in such a way that it would seem an unworthy 
act upon their part to encourage a rebellion, espe- 
cially a pro-slavery rebellion; and very well for 
him also to suggest that their commerce could be 
better conducted with one nation than with two. 
In plain fact, they were considering nothing more 
lofty than their own material interests, and upon 
this point their distinguished statesmen did not 
feel the need of seeking information or advice 
from the Western lawyer, who had just been so 
freakishly picked out of a frontier town to take 
charge of the destinies of the United States. The 
only matter which they contemplated with some 
interest, and upon which they could gather enlight- 
enment from his words, related to the greater or 
less degree of firmness and confidence with which 
he was likely to meet them ; for even in their eyes 
this must be admitted to constitute one of the 
elements in the situation. It was, therefore, for- 
tunate that Mr. Lincoln successfully avoided an 
appearance either of alarm or of defiance. 


But difficult as it may have been skilfully to 
compose the sentences of the message so far as it 
concerned foreign relationships, some occurrences 
were taking place at this very time of the compo- 
sition, which reduced verbal manoeuvring to insig- 
nificance. A sudden and unexpected menace was 
happily turned into a substantial aid and advan- 
tage; and the administration, not long after it 
had firmly declared its resolution to maintain its 
clear and lawful rights, was given the opportunity 
greatly to strengthen its position by an event 
which, at first, seemed untoward enough. In the 
face of very severe temptation to do otherwise, it 
had the good sense to seize this opportunity and to 
show that it had upon its own part the will not 
only to respect, but to construe liberally as against 
itseK, the rights of neutrals ; also that it had the 
power to enforce its will, upon the instant, even at 
the cost of bitterly disappointing the whole body 
of loyal citizens in the very hour of their rejoicing. 

The story of Mason and SlideU is familiar: 
accredited as envoys of the Confederacy to Eng- 
land and France, in the autumn of 1861, they ran 
the blockade at Charleston and came to Havana. 
There they did not conceal their purpose to sail 
for England, by the British royal mail steamship 
Trent, on November 7. Captain Wilkes of the 
United States steam sloop of war San Jacinto, 
hearing all this, lay in wait in the Bahama Chan- 
nel, sighted the Trent on November 8, fired a shot 
across her bows, and brought her to. He then sent 


on board a force of marines to search her and 
fetch off the rebels. This was done against the 
angry protests of the Englishman, and with such 
slight force as constituted technical compulsion, 
but without violence. The Trent was then left 
to proceed on her voyage. The envoys, or "mis- 
sionaries," as they were called by way of avoid- 
ing the recognition of an official character, were 
soon in confinement in Fort Warren, in Boston 

Everywhere at the North the news produced an 
outburst of joy and triumph. Captain Wilkes 
was the hero of the hour, and received every kind 
of honor and compliment. The Secretary of the 
Navy wrote to him a letter of congratulation, de- 
claring that his conduct was "marked by intelli- 
gence, ability, decision, and firmness, and has the 
emphatic approval of this Department." Secre- 
tary Stanton was outspoken in his praise. When 
Congress convened, on December 1, almost the 
first thing done by the House of Kepresentatives 
was to hurry through a vote of thanks to the cap- 
tain for his "brave, adroit, and patriotic conduct." 
The newspaper press, public meetings, private con- 
versation throughout the country, all reechoed 
these joyous sentiments. The people were in a 
fever of pleasurable excitement. It called for 
some nerve on the part of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. 
Seward suddenly to plunge them into a chilling 
bath of disappointment. 

Statements differ as to what was Mr. Seward's 


earliest opinion in the matter.^ But all writers 
agree that Mr. Lincoln did not move with the cur- 
rent of triumph. He was scarcely even non-com- 
mittal. On the contrary, he is said at once to 
have remarked that it did not look right to stop 
the vessel of a friendly power on the high seas and 
take passengers out of her; that he did not under- 
stand whence Captain Wilkes derived authority to 
turn his quarter-deck into a court of admiralty; 
that he was afraid the captives might prove to be 
white elephants on our hands; that we had fought 
Great Britain on the ground of like doings upon 
her part, and that now we must stick to American 
principles; that if England insisted upon our sur- 
rendering the prisoners, we must do so, and must 
apologize, and so bind her over to keep the peace 
in relation to neutrals, and to admit that she had 
been wrong for sixty years. 

The English demand came quickly, forcibly, 
and almost offensively. The news, brought to 
England by the Trent, set the whole nation in a 
blaze of fury, — and naturally enough, it must be 
admitted. The government sent out to the navy- 
yards orders to make immediate preparations for 
war; the newspapers were filled with abuse and 
menace against the United States; the extrava- 
gance of their language will not be imagined with- 

1 Mr. Welles declares that Seward at first opposed the surren- 
der ; but Mr. Chittenden asserts that he knows that Mr. Seward's 
first opinion coincided with his later action ; see Mr. Welles's Ltn- 
coin and Seward, and Chittenden's Recollections, 148. 


out actual reference to their pages. Lord Pal- 
merston hastily sketched a dispatch to Lord 
Lyons, the British minister at Washington, de- 
manding instant reparation, but couched in lan- 
guage so threatening and insolent as to make com- 
pliance scarcely possible. Fortunately, in like 
manner as Mr. Seward had taken to Mr. Lincoln 
his letter of instructions to Mr. Adams, so Lord 
Palmerston also felt obliged to lay his missive 
before the Queen, and the results in both cases 
were alike; for once at least royalty did a good 
turn to the American Republic. Prince Albert, 
ill with the disease which only a few days later 
carried him to his grave, labored hard over that 
important document, with the result that the royal 
desire to eliminate passion sufficiently to make a 
peaceable settlement possible was made unmistak- 
ably plain, and therefore the letter, as ultimately 
revised by Earl EusseU, though stiU disagreeably 
peremptory in tone, left room for the United 
States to set itself right without loss of self-re- 
spect. The most annoying feature was that Great 
Britain insisted upon instant action; if Lord 
Lyons did not receive a favorable reply within 
seven days after formally preferring his demand 
for reparation, he was to call for his passports. 
In other words delay by diplomatic correspondence 
and such ordinary shilly-shallying meant war. As 
the London "Times" expressed it, America was 
not to be allowed "to retain what she had taken 
from us, at the cheap price of an interminable cor- 


December 19 tWs dispatch reached Lord Lyons ; 
he talked its contents over with Mr. Seward, in- 
formally, and deferred the formal communication 
until the 23d. Mr. Lincoln drew up a proposal 
for submission to arbitration. But it could not 
be considered; the instructions to Lord Lyons 
gave no time and no discretion. It was aggra- 
vating to concede what was demanded under such 
pressure; but the President, as has been said, 
had already expressed his opinion upon the cardi- 
nal point: that England had the strength of the 
case. Moreover he remarked, with good common 
sense: "One war at a time." So it was settled 
that the emissaries must be surrendered. The 
"prime minister of the Northern States of Amer- 
ica,''^ as the London Times insultingly called Mr. 
Seward, was wise enough to agree; for, under the 
circumstances, to allow discourtesy to induce war 
was unjustifiable. On December 25 a long Cabi- 
net council was held, and the draft of Seward's 
reply was accepted, though with sore reluctance. 
The necessity was cruel, but fortunately it was not 
humiliating ; for the President had pointed to the 
road of honorable exit in those words which Mr. 
Lossing heard uttered by him on the very day that 
the news arrived. In 1812 the United States had 
fought with England because she had insisted, and 
they had denied, that she had the right to stop 
their vessels on the high seas, to search them, and 
to take from them British subjects found on board 
them. Mr. Seward now said that the covmtry still 


adhered to the ancient principle for which it had 
once fought, and was glad to find England re- 
nouncing her old - time error. Captain Wilkes, 
not acting under instructions, had made a mistake. 
If he had captured the Trent and brought her in 
for adjudication as prize in our admiralty courts, a 
case might have been maintained and the prisoners 
held. He had refrained from this course, out of 
kindly consideration for the many innocent persons 
to whom it would have caused serious inconven- 
ience; and since England elected to stand upon 
the strict rights which his humane conduct gave to 
her, the United States must be bound by their 
own principles at any cost to themselves. Ac- 
cordingly the "envoys" were handed over to the 
commander of the English gunboat Rinaldo, at 
Provincetown, on January 1, 1862. 

The decision of the President and the Secretary 
of State was thoroughly wise. Much hung upon 
it; "no one," says Arnold, "can calculate the re- 
sults which would have followed upon a refusal to 
surrender these men." An almost certain result 
would have been a war with England; and a 
highly probable result would have been that ere- 
long France also would find pretext for hostilities, 
since she was committed to friendship with Eng- 
land in this matter, and moreover the Emperor 
seemed to have a restless desire to interfere against 
the North. What then would have been the like- 
lihood of ultimate success in that domestic strug- 
gle, which, by itself, though it did not exhaust, 


yet very severely taxed both Northern endurance 
and Northern resources? It is fair also to these 
two men to say that, in reaching their decision, 
instead of receiving aid or encouragement from 
outside, they had the reverse. Popular feeling 
may be estimated from the utterances which, even 
after there had been time for reflection, were 
made by men whose positions curbed them with 
the grave responsibilities of leadership. In the 
House of Representatives Owen Lovejoy pledged 
himself to "inextinguishable hatred" of Great 
Britain, and promised to bequeath it as a legacy 
to his children; and, while he was not engaging 
in the war for the integrity of his own country, 
he vowed that if a war with England should 
come, he would "carry a musket" in it. Sen- 
ator Hale, in thunderous oratory, notified the 
members of the administration that if they would 
"not listen to the voice of the people, they would 
find themselves engulfed in a fire that would con- 
sume them like stubble; they would be helpless 
before a power that would hurl them from their 
places." The great majority at the North, though 
perhaps incapable of such felicity of expression, 
was undoubtedly not very much misrepresented by 
the vindictive representative and the exuberant 
senator. Yet a brief period, in which to consider 
the logic of the position, sufficed to bring nearly 
all to intelligent conclusions ; and then it was seen 
that what had been done had been rightly and 
wisely done. There was even a sense of pride in 


doing fairly and honestly, without the shuffling 
evasions of diplomacy, an act of strict right; and 
the harder the act the greater was the honor. The 
behavior of the people was generous and intelli- 
gent, and greatly strengthened the government in 
the eyes of foreigners. By the fulness and readi- 
ness of this reparation England was put under a 
moral obligation to treat the United States as hon- 
orably as the United States treated her. She did 
not do so, it is true ; but in more ways than one 
she ultimately paid for not doing so. At any 
rate, for the time being, after this action it would 
have been nothing less than indecent for her to 
recognize the Confederacy at once; and a little 
later prudence had the like restraining effect. Yet 
though recognition and war were avoided they 
never entirely ceased to threaten, and Mr. Chit- 
tenden is perfectly correct in saying that "every 
act of our government was performed under the 
impending danger of a recognition of the Confed- 
eracy, a disregard of the blockade, and the actual 
intervention of Great Britain in our attempt to 
suppress an insurrection upon our own territory." 

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